15:21 Jun. 24, 2016
"Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty" – EU chiefs say
European Union regrets the decision of the British people to leave the bloc, but respects it.
These were the first words of the joint statement issued on Friday by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Mark Rutte, holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, on the outcome of the United Kingdom referendum.
"In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision but respect it.
This is an unprecedented situation but we are united in our response. We will stand strong and uphold the EU's core values of promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples. The Union of 27 Member States will continue. The Union is the framework of our common political future," the EU chiefs said.
The leaders stressed that until the exit negotiations are over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union. At the same time they said Europe expects Britain to leave as soon as possible.
"We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the European Union."
The EU leaders also voiced hope to have the UK as a close partner of the European Union in the future.