‘Beginning of end’, ‘different Europe’: How the EU reacted to Brexit

  • Agencies, London
  • Updated: Jun 24, 2016 16:52 IST
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a statement about the referendum in Britain at the chancellery in Berlin, Friday, June 24, 2016. Britain voted to leave the European Union after a bitterly divisive referendum campaign. (AP Photo)

British citizens voted out of the European Union (EU) early on Friday morning, reducing the 28-nation bloc by one, and triggering a domino effect of several nations calling for a referendum.

Key Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, head of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, was triumphant as he declared the EU “dead”.

“The eurosceptic genie is out of the bottle and it will now not be put back… EU’s finished,” he said.

Read: Britain votes to leave EU, Cameron quits, markets plunge

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Far-right leaders in France and the Netherlands were quick to call for a similar vote to leave.

“Victory for Freedom! As I have been asking for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and EU countries,” tweeted French National Front leader, Marine Le Pen.

“The British people have given to Europeans and to all the people of the world a shining lesson in democracy,” she added.

Read: How the UK could remain in the EU despite a vote to leave

Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders also reacted, posting: “The Dutch people deserve a referendum as well. The Party for Freedom consequently demands a referendum on NExit, a Dutch EU exit,” on Twitter.

‘Beginning of end’

Turkey, which has been trying for decades to join the bloc, said it was the beginning of the end for the EU.

“The period of the disintegration of the European Union has begun. And the first vessel to have departed is Britain,” deputy prime minister, Nurettin Canikli said.

Read: Eye on trade, economy: What Brexit means for India

“Only Bulgaria, Romania and Greece will remain when the domino effect is set off,” added Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

‘Need for different Europe’

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel however said her country has “special interest and special responsibility” in European unity succeeding, and cautioned against “quick and simple conclusions” that could cause further divisions.

The vote, which led to David Cameron announcing his resignation as Prime Minister with effect from October, also crashed global markets, bringing the pound to its lowest value in 31 years. However, amid worries over the economic repercussions, several remaining EU nations called to keep the union strong.

Read: After Brexit, CM Kejriwal calls for referendum on Delhi statehood

“Today on behalf of the 27 leaders, I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as 27,” said EU president Donald Tusk.

Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the Brexit vote is a “chance for a new beginning” but cautioned that Europe must not return to business as usual.

Gabriel, also Germany’s Economy Minister, told Bild newspaper that “the exit of the United Kingdom is a shrill wakeup call for European politics. Whoever doesn’t listen or takes refuge in the usual rituals drives Europe into a wall.”

“We don’t need ‘more Europe’, but a ‘different Europe’.”

Read: Second Scottish independence vote ‘on the table’: Scotland leader

‘No fear of domino effect’

Several other leaders responded with “sadness”, including Poland’s foreign minister who called the decision “bad news” for Europe and for the many Poles – estimated at about 850,000 – who now live in Britain.

Spain’s acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy said the Brexit “ought to make all member nations rethink” their position, a sentiment that Belgium’s prime minister Charles Michel echoed, stating it was an opportunity to “fundamentally rethink the European project”.

Reiterating their commitment to the EU, Austrian chancellor Christian Kern said his country will not hold a similar vote of its own.

“I do not fear a domino effect,” Kern said responding to reports of some nations calling for a referendum.

“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,” he however acknowledged.

US presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was in Scotland as the vote was announced, called Britain’s decision “a fantastic thing”.

For Britain, Scotland’s vote to remain with the EU could signal another fight. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said that a second independence vote was “on the table” following the one held in 2014.

“Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status,” Sturgeon said.

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