While a million Britons sign petition for rerun, EU leaders eager to move on
London/Berlin: A day after Britain decided to leave the 28-member bloc, the country's most senior diplomat to the European Union, Jonathan Hill, announced he will step down saying "what is done cannot be undone".
Netherlands' foreign minister Bert Koenders (C), (L to R) Italy's foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Belgium's foreign minister Didier Reynders and France's foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Berlin. Pic/AFP
And, over one million Britons signed a petition, calling on the British Parliament to hold a new referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union (EU). The petition set up by William Oliver Healey and signed by 1,086,840 supporters, called for implementing the rule that "if the Remain or Leave vote is less than 60 per cent based on a turnout less than 75 per cent, there should be another referendum." A committee concerned will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to approve a debate.
Meanwhile, first Minister Nicola Sturgeon held a cabinet meeting to discuss the Scottish government's response to Britain's vote to leave the EU. Sturgeon said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland faced being taken out of the EU against its will.
Call for quick divorce
On the other side, EU leaders pressured Britain to make a quick exit from the union, warning they could not afford to be left in "limbo" and that the divorce would not be "amicable". Foreign ministers of EU's founding member states, gathering in Berlin for crisis talks, said London must begin the process of leaving "as soon as possible".
France's Jean-Marc Ayrault called for David Cameron to make way fast for a new British prime minister to manage the transition out of the union.
As the EU grappled with the first defection in its six-decade history, European Parliament President Martin Schulz called Cameron's decision to possibly wait until October to leave "scandalous", saying that he was "taking the whole (European) continent hostage".
It will fall to Cameron's successor to lead the complex negotiations under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty which sets out a two-year timeframe to leave. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, hosting his counterparts from the five other original EU states, said they agreed that London must begin the exit process immediately. "We join together in saying that this process must begin as soon as possible so we don't end up in an extended limbo period but rather can focus on the future of Europe and work towards it," he said.
"We understand and respect the result (of the referendum) and understand that Britain is now concentrating on Britain," Steinmeier said, flanked by Ayrault, the Netherlands' Bert Koenders, Italy's Paolo Gentiloni, Belgium's Didier Reynders and Luxemburg's Jean Asselborn.
He insisted London still had a "responsibility" toward the EU. "We must now be allowed to focus on the future of Europe and that means that after the decision taken in Britain, the process by which we negotiate Britain's exit must begin." Koenders called for "good faith" talks with London to begin right away: "We have to move on... we need to turn the page."
British scientists reacted with dismay to Brexit, as the EU sends to their laboratories some of the most brilliant minds in the world. "This is a big blow for the hiring of talented people across the EU," said Ewan Birney, co-director of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge. "This is a poor outcome for British science. Science flourishes in environments that pool intelligence, minimises barriers and are open to free collaboration," added Paul Nurse, Nobel prize winner and director of the Francis Crick Institute.