Historic Brexit vote sends shockwaves through Europe, with calls for a slimmer EU

ByREUTERS
June 24, 2016 12:58

“I am fully aware of how serious, or even dramatic, this moment is politically. And there's no way of predicting all the political consequences of this event, especially for the UK."




eu flag (european union)

European Union flags. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The British people’s vote to leave the European Union sent shock waves through that continent on Friday morning, strengthening those forces within the remaining 27 member EU states who want their governments to make a similar exist.

EU officials did their best to do damage control with its council president Donald Tusk stating: “this is not the moment for hysterical reactions.”

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He added, “I am fully aware of how serious, or even dramatic, this moment is politically. And there's no way of predicting all the political consequences of this event, especially for the UK.

“I want to reassure everyone that we are prepared also for this negative scenario. As you know the EU is not only a fair-weather project.

“We are determined to keep our unity as 27. For all of us, the union is the framework for our common future,” Tusk said.

”Finally, it's true that the past years have been the most difficult ones in the history of our Union. But I always remember what my father used to tell me: What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.”

British politician Nigel Farage, leader of the ardently anti-European Union party UKIP, however, said on Friday  that, ”The EU is failing, the EU is dying.”
“I hope we've knocked the first brick out of the wall. I hope this is the first step towards a Europe of sovereign nations."

He also said other European countries could follow suit in leaving the European Union.

"I mean in the rest of the EU, eurosceptic parties never talked about leaving the EU, now they are. An opinion poll in the Netherlands said the majority there now want to leave so we may well be close perhaps to Nexit,” Farage said.

In Denmark, the populist anti-immigration party wasted no time on Friday in calling for a referendum on the country's membership of the European Union.

An opinion poll this week, however, showed 59 percent of Danes would be against holding a referendum similar to the British on EU membership, while 33 percent were for a vote.

"I believe that the Danes obviously should have a referendum on whether we want to follow Britain or keep things the way we have it now," DF party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told broadcaster DR.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen rejected the calls, but acknowledged that the British vote raised the possibility of a "slimmer EU".

"We belong in the EU," Rasmussen told a news conference. "I do not foresee that there will be a situation in the foreseeable future where we need to take a break with that".

In Sweden, the anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats has long demanded a referendum on the country's EU membership.

"The Sweden Democrats will now increase our pressure on the government, and we demand that Sweden immediately starts to renegotiate the (EU) deals we have made and that the Swedish people will be able to speak up about a future EU-membership in a referendum," party leader Jimme Akesson said by email.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli, whose country is not an EU member said, ”The fragmentation process of the EU has started. Britain was the first to abandon ship," Canikli wrote on Twitter.

France will hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the impact of Britain's referendum vote to leave the European Union, a source at the French Presidency said.

The European Union should work hard to maintain unity, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said on Friday.

"We must draw our conclusions for the whole of Europe from the British referendum and work hard so that we do not lose the unity of the European Union," Roivas said in a statement.

The European Union should be reformed to focus on economic growth, jobs and greater integration after Britain's vote to leave the bloc, Spain's acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday.

"Now that we are finally coming out of the economic crisis, we must shift the European Union's focus towards the necessities of its people, putting the emphasis on growth and unemployment," Rajoy told a news conference.

"This result must make all (EU) member states reflect on how to strengthen ourselves more than ever to win back the vigor of the original spirit behind the European project and recover the interest, sympathy and attraction our citizens feel towards it," he said.

Rajoy also said whatever was the result of Sunday's Spanish national election, the country would remain committed to the European project.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Friday called for the European Union to change direction.

"We have to change it to make it more human and more just, but Europe is our home, it's our future," Renzi said in a tweet.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said he did not expect a "domino effect" of referendums on membership of the European Union.

"I do not fear a domino effect," Kern said in a statement to reporters on Friday.

"Europe will lose status and significance in the world because of Britain's step. The long-term economic effects will also be felt for some time,” Kern said.

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