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Brexit: UK torn apart, EU disorientated

All EU media comment on the UK’s EU referendum results, with 52% voting to leave the EU and 48% voting to remain. While the EU demands a speedy procedure, the UK’s negotiation position would be weakened by rushing things. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament Martin Schulz insist that David Cameron make the UK’s intention to leave the EU official at the upcoming EU summit, but the UK government is hesitating to trigger Article 50.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to be showing greater understanding for the UK, as well as a willingness to begin preliminary negotiations. Most EU media reveal that UK Commissioner Lord Hill, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, has informed EC President Juncker of his decision to resign from his post as European Commissioner. Lord Hill has been a defender and advocate of the UK’s financial services industry in Brussels, since his appointment as Britain’s European commissioner by David Cameron.

“I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened,” Hill said in a statement, quoted by The Cyprus Mail. “I have therefore told President Juncker that I shall stand down.” “At the same time, there needs to be an orderly handover, so I have said that I will work with him to make sure that happens in the weeks ahead.” His powers have now been handed to the Commission Vice-President responsible for the euro, Valdis Dombrovskis.

In an interview with The Financial Times, Jonathan Hill warned that Britain faces imminent loss of power over European rulemaking for financial services.The outcome of the referendum has triggered a political crisis in the United Kingdom. The Financial Times reports that a petition for a second referendum in the UK has been signed by 3.3 million people, as younger voters voice their anger towards the referendum result. The Guardian‘s front page reports that the UK’s Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a “crisis” after it was announced that 11 Labour Shadow Cabinet members resigned following his decision to sack Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn.

An editorial in The Sun comments that following the resignation of the David Cameron, to take effect in October of this year, the Conservative party needs to find a new leader. Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph, Rzeczpospolita and Público report that the First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the Scottish parliament could block the UK from leaving the EU under laws that could prevent any decisions being made that would directly impact on Holyrood’s devolved responsibilities. An editorial in The Scotsman notes that many people in Scotland see the move to block the Brexit as “legitimate” with the majority of Scottish voters siding with Remain in the referendum.

Many media also comment on the consequences of the results for the European Union. The Daily Mail reports that the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has faced calls to resign following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. At the press conference right after the referendum results were published, President Juncker seemed “struck” by the events, Markus Grabitz notes in Der Tagesspiegel. Mr Juncker represents “the Europe that the Brits have penalised.” The Times front page reports that Donald Trump has predicted that the European Union will come to an end following Britain’s decision to leave.

In an opinion article published by Público, Álvaro Vasconcelos writes that the decision to abandon the EU is further proof of the huge threat Europe is facing: nationalism. In Les Echos’ editorial, Nicolas Barré laments “the lack of vision and collective project” which has been “blighting” the EU for years. European citizens express two fundamental concerns: on the one hand, they worry about their quality of life and their future, and on the other hand, they feel that their voice is not being heard, and that power has been taken by political, economic and financial elites. Helsingin Sanomat writes that economists believe that the long process of EU divorce will reduce Britain’s attractiveness as an investment target. Therefore, the sky might not fall on Britain, but the negative effects could materialise slowly.

In a guest commentary in Handelsblatt, Wolfgang Münchau, CEO of EuroIntelligence, links the British decision to a possible financial crisis in the Euro zone. Finally, the UK’s departure marks an abrupt end to the unofficial but founding principle that EU membership is irreversible, writes Les Echos. The Washington Post reports that Austria could be the next Nation to leave the European Union.

There will be several EU meetings this week to address the issue. Indeed the EU’s institutions must now make progress on further integration, Il Sole 24 Ore writes. This could happen on the basis of at least 10 dossiers which are still pending. These include financial issues, investments and immigration. Le Soir reports that today the divorce period between the EU and the UK should start. In an article in La Repubblica, Alberto D’Argenio and Tonia Mastrobuoni say that the fear is that today’s mini-summit will only produce standard statements without much substance, thus risking a crisis similar to last summer with Greece.

France and Italy want a two-speed Europe, but Ms Merkel seems opposed to that for now. Ms Merkel wants Donald Tusk to lead negotiations on the Brexit instead of the European Commission, as would be “logical”. According to Alithia, The Foreign Ministers of Germany and France have drawn up a nine-page document entitled “A strong Europe in a world of uncertainties” in which they propose common European security and migration policies and strengthened economic convergence. Acknowledging that the European Union is “being severely put to the test,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault said the bloc was challenged by a series of crises to its south and east while economic growth was on a slow recovery path.

In an interview with atv, Commissioner Navracsics said that the UK and the EU have 3-4 months to conclude an agreement. In an interview with BNT, EC Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva shared her hopes that the remaining 27 EU Member States would unite and provide a strong buffer against the consequences of Brexit. First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans wrote on his Facebook page that Brexit is not an isolated incident; it is also the expression of a broad sentiment in Europe, NOS.nl reports.

European Commissioner Moedas told journalists in Brussels that it is hard to imagine the European Union without the pragmatism and dynamism of the United Kingdom, Expresso online reports. “However, the European Union has successfully overcome many crises and the same will happen now,” Mr Moedas declared, as quoted by Expresso.pt. In an interview with Berlingske, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager says that the EU must survive as there are no alternatives to solving cross-border issues. “Britain’s vote to leave has finally awakened the EU”, a Večernji list commentary reads.

According to Ö1, Austrian President Heinz Fischer called the vote a wake-up call for the European Union. On the contrary, Diário de Notícias and Le Figaro’s Alexis Brézet denounce the EU leaders’ “petty”, “punitive logic” consisting in trying to dissuade other member from leaving the EU by calling for the UK’s speedy departure from the EU. Their reaction is “not up to the challenges” of this major crisis, Mr Brézet notes. Several media note that the leaders of the European institutions were not fully prepared for Brexit. Journalist Teresa de Sousa writes in Público that despite the politicians’ speeches praising the European Union and its accomplishments, there is no common idea about Europe’s future.

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