EU summit

European leaders meet in wake of Brexit

Dan Griffin Tue, Jun 28
LIVE: EU summit

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  • 12:01

    The pound is down, Cameron is out (soon), British banks are losing their gold-plated credit ratings and England - the engine block of the Brexit juggernaut - has just been knocked out of Euro 2016.

    A lot has happened since the UK voted to leave the European Union last Thursday. The Labour party is in turmoil, the Conservatives aren't faring much better and no one seems to know what happens next.

  • 12:06

    Well today European Union leaders are meeting in Brussels for the first time since the British public said "We've had enough. We're out." Germany, France and Italy issued a joint warning to Britain before the meeting: talks to shape future relation cannot begin until London submits its formal application to leave the bloc.

    But will that come today? Unlikely. David Cameron has already said he'll leave that dirty work to his successor. And who will that be? Boris Johnson? Theresa May? There are many, many questions. But will we have any answers by the end of the day?

  • 12:09
    Our Berlin correspondent Derek Scally has been listening to Angela Merkel in the Bundestag. In a strong and stern speech, mostly directed to listeners in London, the German leader described Brexit as a “watershed” for Europe.
    “Europe has survived many difficult crisis but in almost 60 years ... but there hasn’t been anything like this.”

    She warned prime minister David Cameron’s successor that it was up to  them to say what they wanted in the future and to file to leave the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Until that happens, she warned, no talks - formal or informal - can take place about Britain's future relationship with the EU.

    And whenever talks begin, she warned, there can be no “cherry-picking”.

    “It has to make a considerable difference if someone wants to be a member of the European family or not,” she said.  

    But free access to the common market sought by post-EU Britain, she said, requires accepting four basic freedoms of movement: for goods, services, people and capital.

    “That applies to Great Britain as much as it does to anyone else,” she said. “Someone who wants to leave cannot expect that the obligations fall but the privileges remain.”

    Turning to today’s summit, Chancellor Merkel said this is not a time for debates about more or less Europe but about how to build a Europe that is successful and brings people along with it.

    The EU of 27 members would continue to push forward in the world, she said, defending its values and interests and proving its ability to adapt, as it had after previous crises.

    “Germany will always apply itself to the idea and values of the cause of European integration,” she said, “above all now at this difficult time and at this important juncture.”
  • 12:10

    Our team of correspondents will be covering the summit in full.

    London Editor Denis Staunton writes:

    London and Scotland had the biggest votes against Brexit in last week’s referendum and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon is pondering a second referendum on independence. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan told business leaders this morning that he wants more powers for his city too as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

      "As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I'm not seriously talking about independence today. I am not planning to install border points on the M25,” he said.

      "But on behalf of all Londoners, I am demanding more autonomy for the capital - right now. More autonomy in order to protect London's economy from the uncertainty ahead, to protect the businesses from around the world who trade here and to protect our jobs, wealth and prosperity.

  • 12:11

    Denis Staunton:

    Today’s European Council meeting will, barring unforeseen circumstances, be the last David Cameron will attend as prime minister. The next summit is not due until October and Cameron’s successor as Conservative leader will be in place by the beginning of September, at the latest.

    Up to half a dozen MPs could enter the leadership race by the time nominations close  on Thursday  but the two frontrunners are former London mayor Boris Johnson and home secretary Theresa May. The terms of Britain’s exit from the EU are likely to figure in the campaign, with the party’s overwhelmingly Eurosceptic membership making the final choice.

      Johnson was one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, which should, on the face of it, give him an advantage over May, who backed Remain. But the flinty home secretary could yet outflank Johnson on the right by adopting a more hardline approach on immigration, an issue he has sought to play down since the referendum.

      Johnson has been making soothing noises about retaining access to the single market in an effort to win support among MPs who backed Remain. But May can expect the backing of many Cameron allies who view Johnson’s behaviour over Brexit as dishonourable, and according to a YouGov poll in The Times today, she is more popular among party members.

  • 12:13

    Suzanne Lynch in Brussels:

    While the EU summit will begin at  4 pm, the European Parliament has been holding an emergency session down the road in Brussels.

    Unsurprisingly, all eyes were on Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader and MEP who has made his call for a British exit from the European Union his life calling.

    This morning the victorious leader could barely contain his joy.  “You’re not laughing now,” he said to boos and heckles from the Chamber.

    “When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign go get Britain out of the  European Union, you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?”

    He said the British referendum result had been a seismic result, “not just for British politics, but for European politics [and] perhaps even for global politics too. Because what the little people did, what the ordinary people did, what the people who have been oppressed over the last few years and who have seen their living standards go down [did], they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics. And they said, actually, we want our country back.”

    Earlier the mood had been more reflective as European Parliament Martin Schulz opened the session. An arch-federalist and passionate believer in the European project, the German politician last week called on British Prime minister David Cameron to trigger exit negotiations as early as today. This morning he was more conciliatory as he called for “cool heads” and stressed that Britain would still be linked to Europe through “humanity.”

    "We regret the decision that the United Kingdom has made. But you, the colleagues we have worked with, were are linked to you in humanity."

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took the opportunity to defend his own record. Responding to murmurs of criticism of his leadership of the European Commissio that have intensified since the British vote, the former Luxembourg prime minister declared:   “I'm not tired,I'm not sick as newspapers in Germany write. I am what I am To my last breath I will fight for Europe, for a united Europe.”

    But in a warning to Britain of the difficult negotiations ahead,  Mr Juncker called on the UK to “swiftly” clarifying its position regarding its plan to exit the European Union, warning that the bloc cannot be “embroiled in lasting uncertainty.”

  • 12:26
    Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said he's quietly hopeful that the Irish economy won't get a major shock from the UK saying goodbye to the EU.
  • 12:29
    US president Barack Obama has warned against financial and global hysteria after the UK vote, saying that while full European integration may be on pause, cataclysmic changes are unlikely.

    "There's been a little bit of hysteria post-Brexit vote, as if somehow NATO's gone, the trans-Atlantic alliance is dissolving, and every country is rushing off to its own corner. That's not what's happening," Obama told National Public Radio.
  • 12:34
    While Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to meet fellow EU leaders from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group this afternoon for a pre-summit meeting, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin is also in town.
    Speaking to Suzanne Lynch on his way into a meeting of the ALDE group in central Brussels a short time ago, the centre-left political group to which Fianna Fail is aligned in the European Union, the Fianna Fail leader said that the essential role for the Irish government is to protect the Irish national interest and the wellbeing of the Irish people on the island of Ireland.
    “We will support them in that regard. Procedurally things should go in accordance with European law. Space for reflection should be given. Notification should be triggered in October , and negotiations should then being with the new British Prime Minister . Our objective has to be to endeavour to have a relationship that facilitate access to the European market, because a benign relationship between Britian and Europe will ultimately be good for Ireland.”
    He also called on the government to fully involve the Opposition in the forthcoming negotiations. “We are calling for almost a permanent consultative framework with all of the parties in the Dail . We should all wear the green jersey here. We will use our contacts in our group and our contacts across the European Union to advocate for Ireland. “
  • 12:38
    Stephen Collins reports that, while the European Parliament has voted for a resolution asking the UK to withdraw from the EU as soon as possible, Fine Gael MEPs abstained on the vote as they did not back the immediate triggering of a UK exit.
    The party’s Dublin MEP Brian Hayes said that while his party was broadly in favour of the resolution passed by the Parliament it did not favour precipitate action.
    “It is not in the Irish national interest to trigger an immediate UK exit,” said Mr Hayes.
    “We need to take our time and see what is the best way out of this mess for Ireland and the rest of the EU,” he said.
    The Parliament backed a resolution proposed by the major political groupings which called on the UK to respect the wish of a majority of EUs citizens, “entirely, fully and as soon as possible, by officially withdrawing from the EU before any new relationship arrangements can be made.”
    The decision was taken by the Parliament after an extraordinary plenary debate during which MEPs also stressed the urgent need for reforms to ensure that the EU lives up to its citizens’ expectations.
  • 12:41
    After a debate between Parliament’s political group leaders, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Dutch minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, representing the EU Council’s rotating presidency, Parliament voted a resolution on ways forward after the UK referendum on June 23rd. The text was approved by 395 to 200, with 71 abstentions.
    The resolution called on the UK government to respect its people’s democratic decision via a swift and coherent implementation of the withdrawal procedure, i.e. by activating Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union so as to allow withdrawal negotiations to start as soon as possible.
    “To prevent damaging uncertainty for everyone and to protect the Union’s integrity, the UK Prime Minister should notify the outcome of the referendum to the European Council of 28-29 June in order to as soon as possible launch the withdrawal procedure (5) and negotiations, urge MEPs.,” it said.
    MEPs recall that the European Parliament’s consent for the withdrawal agreement and any future relationship (8) is required under the Treaties, and that it must be fully involved at all stages of the various procedures.
    The Parliament also called on the European Council to change the order of its presidencies to prevent the withdrawal process from jeopardising the management of the day-to-day business of the Union. The UK was set to take on the presidency in the second half of 2017. (15) Parliament will also change its internal organisation to reflect UK citizens’ will to withdraw from the EU (13).
    The current challenges demand reform to make the Union “better and more democratic”, and to “deliver what citizens expect”, MEPs insist. “While some Member States may choose to integrate more slowly or to a lesser extent, the core of the EU must be reinforced and à la carte solutions should be avoided” , says the text of the resolution.
  • 13:01

    Denis Staunton, London editor, writes:

    The Scottish Parliament this afternoon debates a motion that would give Nicola Sturgeon a mandate to explore options to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU, possibly including a second independence referendum. This is what it says:

    "That the Parliament welcomes the overwhelming vote of the people of Scotland to remain in the European Union; affirms to citizens of other EU countries living here that they remain welcome and that their contribution is valued; mandates the Scottish Government to have discussions with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, the EU institutions and member states to explore options for protecting Scotland’s relationship with the EU, Scotland’s place in the single market  and the social, employment and economic benefits  that come from that, and instructs the Scottish Government to report back regularly to parliamentarians, to the European and External Relations Committee and the Parliament on the progress of those discussions and to seek Parliament’s approval of the outcome of that process."

  • 13:15
  • 13:44
    Britain's prime minister David Cameron talks to the media as he arrives at the EU Summit in Brussels. Photograph: Reuters
    Britain's prime minister David Cameron talks to the media as he arrives at the EU Summit in Brussels. Photograph: Reuters
  • 13:47
    "Does being an Eurocrat mean never having to say you’re sorry," asks Fintan O'Toole. "Without conceding to the wild exaggerations of the Brexiteers, the EU’s leaders should acknowledge their own failures and start talking about what they themselves need to do to restore to the union the public confidence that has been lost in many more member states than the UK."
  • 13:52

    From Suzanne Lynch in Brussels:

    David Cameron has just arrived in Brussels, and has said that while Britain will be leaving the Europe Union, it won’t be turning its back on Europe.

    These are his comments to the assembled media: “I’ll be explaining that Britain will be leaving the European Union but I want that process to be as constructive as possible, and I hope the outcome can be as constructive as possible, because of course, while we’re leaving the European Union, we mustn’t be turning our backs on Europe. These countries are our neighbours, our friends, our allies, our partners and I very much hope we’ll seek the closest possible relationship in terms of trade and cooperation and security, because that is good for us and that is good for them. And that’s the spirit in which the discussions I think will be held today.  

    He is due to meet European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before joining the other 27 EU leaders.
  • 13:59
    You'd wonder what the atmosphere will be like in that meeting between Cameron, Tusk and Juncker. At a time when Europe was grappling with a financial crisis as well a period of unprecendent migration, it's leaders had also to entertain Cameron as he toured about the continent, seeking concessions from the EU in return for the UK's continued membership. Well if the European leaders thought it was a wasteful distraction then they must be particularly annoyed now, knowing that all those negotiations amounted to nothing in the end.
  • 14:01
  • 14:11
  • 14:18
  • 14:28

    The Times of London reported on its front page this morning that English might be on the way out as an official EU language if Britain leaves the EU. Ireland and Malta use English as well but have noted Irish and Maltese as their respective official languages. However a tweet (in French) issued on behalf of the European Commission Representation in Ireland rejected the claim.

    “The Council of Ministers, acting unanimously, decide on the rules governing the use of languages by the European institutions. In other words, any change to the EU Institutions’ language regime is subject to a unanimous vote of the Council, including Ireland,” a statement added.

  • 14:38
  • 14:48

    European Council president Donald Tusk has said an informal meeting of EU leaders could take place in Bratislava, Slovakia, in September to discuss the future of Europe.

    He told reporters that it is up to the UK to initiate "the divorce process", but he added that this process was something the rest of the EU was willing to begin "even today".

    He said Brexit is an emotional issue as well as anything else. "The day after Brexit I felt as if someone very close to me had left our home and in the same second i felt how dear and precious this home was to me," he said.

  • 14:50
    While Brexit is dominating today's EU summit, another issue on the agenda is EU-Nato cooperation - a potentially sensitive issue for Ireland given neutrality, writes Suzanne Lynch.
  • 15:06

    Denis Staunton, London Editor, writes:

    David Cameron says it will be for his successor to trigger Article 50, starting formal talks about Britain’s exit from the EU but Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones told the Welsh Assembly today that it should be done as soon as possible.

    "I think waiting months and months and months for it just adds to that uncertainty. Better that people know where they stand rather than not knowing what's going to happen for many months and many years," he said.

    A majority of voters in Wales, as in England, backed Brexit but Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood says the referendum result should intensify the push for Welsh independence.

    “In all likelihood, with Scotland voting to remain, the UK will cease to exist in the near future. Northern Ireland will be considering its future too. Wales cannot afford to become a forgotten part of an ‘England-and-Wales’ entity,” she said.

  • 15:22
  • 15:30
    Cliff Taylor of our business staff writes: The markets are offering a more relaxed backdrop to the summit talks. Shares have rallied a bit – notably financial stocks – and sterling is up off its lows at just under $1.34. But who knows what happens next? Often the markets push the politicians into action, but the sense today is that investors are trying to get some hints of the likely political direction. They might have a while to wait.
  • 15:38

    Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon will be in Brussels tomorrow meeting European Parliament chiefs. Scotland, with a population of about 5 million, voted emphatically to stay in the EU: 62 to 38 per cent. And Sturgeon has made it clear that she will take all necessary steps to remain in the EU.

    Having already discussed the fallout from the Brexit vote with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Sturgeon also said that after this week's European Council, she intended to discuss the Scottish issue directly with the European Commission, the EU's executive body.

    There has been much talk of a second referendum on Scottish independence, the thinking being that a Scotland free from the shackles of the UK could step right into the EU club. But you'd wonder whether Scotland couldn't negotiate some form of agreement whereby it remains part of the EU while the rest of the UK leaves the union.

  • 15:54
    Meanwhile, Labour MPs have been voting in a motion of no confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn, the result of which will be announced soon enough - shortly after 4pm. Corbyn has said he'll ignore the result, insisting that his rival in the Labour party will have to stage a leadership challenge instead. Which is what they are believed to be organising at the moment.
  • 16:00
  • 16:09
    There is no place for schadenfreude amid all this turmoil and uncertainty. Oh no. None whatsoever.
  • 16:11

    From AP:

    In contrast to recent speeches on Britain's future in the European Union, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker didn't speak English Tuesday as he lamented the U.K.'s departure from the bloc.

    Juncker's official speech to EU lawmakers was made only in French and German.

    He did, however, respond to hecklers among the British EU lawmakers in English.

    Previously, Juncker has often used the EU's most widely spoken and written language as well, particularly when addressing issues close to British hearts.

  • 16:20
    It is being reported now that Jeremy Corbyn has lost that motion of no confidence. A leadership challenge is likely to follow.
  • 16:27

    Greek prime minister Alexis "Mr 2015" Tsipras had some interesting words before the European Council summit: "I'm afraid we're in a difficult crossroads. Europe has reached a predictable crisis because of the democratic deficit, because of the absence of social cohension and solidarity. I hope that the outcome of the British referendum will work as a wake up call for Europe. In any case, it is necessary to take brave decisions in order to make Europe more attractive to its people."

    He then called for and end for austerity and to "endless" negotiations behind closed doors, before continuing into today's closed door talks.

  • 16:34
    Corbyn: Sky News now reporting that 172 Labour MPs have voted for the motion of no confidence in the party leader and 40 have voted against it. So that's a huge majority of MPs against their leader. Will he hang on? How could he possibly -- 80 per cent of his MPs are against him?
  • 16:43
    NPR in the United States reports: President Barack Obama warned against financial and global hysteria after Britain's vote to leave the European Union, saying that while full European integration may be on pause, cataclysmic changes are unlikely.

  • 16:49
  • 16:57
    Nigel Farage has just appeared on Sky News, saying (paraphrased):  I know there is a small percentage of the UK that absolutely believes in the European project. Most remainers I met around the country believed what they were told as part of project fear: that normal economic activity could not continue outside the EU. My message to them is frankly you've been bullied by big companies and other interests.
  • 17:01

    Reports also today that Boris Johnson said he wrote his Monday Telegraph column too quickly and that he has assured Tories that he will end free movement from EU into Britain.

    That should satisfy Farage, who has said in the last few minutes:  Let's be clear. What the British people voted for was to take back control of our own country, to make our own laws and control our own borders.

  • 17:04
  • 17:13
    Another Labour front bencher steps down. Lyn Brown is number 22 to leave Corbyn.
  • 17:27
  • 17:36
    So Boris appears determined to do away with the free movement of people -- a tenet of EU membership -- in any Brexit negotiation. That's unsurprising considering it was a major plank of the Leave campaign: vote Leave and control the flow of EU migrants into the UK. But how will he, or any other Leave campaigner, square that with comments from EU leaders such as Angela Merkel that a country can't enjoy the benefits of EU membership and disregard the obligations? People talk up a "Norway deal" for the UK, which would see them retain access to the single market but it would also mean they have to keep their borders open. The immigration question could be so divisive in all this and there is surely no appetite among the EU leaders to give any ground on the free movement of people.
  • 17:38
    Jack Straw reckons Corbyn has to go. The Labour leader's attempt to hang on to the leadership by appealing to its membership and bypassing its parliamentarians is, Straw says, a "Trotskyist fantasy".
  • 17:50
  • 18:01
    A second referendum on Scottish independence remains “on the table” following last week’s  Brexitvote,  Nicola Sturgeon  has said. Scotland’s first minster also called on the British parliament to “get a grip” amid political paralysis in Westminster, writes Peter Geoghan.
  • 18:10
    Protesters gather against the EU referendum result in Trafalgar Square, London, today. Up to 50,000 people were expected before the event was cancelled due to safety concerns. By early evening up to 300 people still converged on the square to vent their anti-Brexit feelings. Photograph: Getty
    Protesters gather against the EU referendum result in Trafalgar Square, London, today. Up to 50,000 people were expected before the event was cancelled due to safety concerns. By early evening up to 300 people still converged on the square to vent their anti-Brexit feelings. Photograph: Getty
  • 18:12
    The EU leaders are mostly working through an agenda containing items such as Nato policy today but they should break off for dinner at around 6.30pm, leaving an opportunity for Cameron to brief and take questions on Brexit.
  • 18:24
  • 18:38

    As Corbyn continues to cling on to the Labour leadership, the position is almost inevitably going to be contested. That will involve putting the question to Labour supporters, who voted for Corbyn in the droves less than one year ago. But would they this time? And what of Labour's national standing right now? A poll by YouGov shows that 27 per cent of the party's supporters in the 2015 general election would be less likely to vote for it following the EU referendum campaign.

  • 18:49
    Meanwhile, a new Conservative leader should be announced on September 9th. Nominations will open tomorrow and close at noon on Thursday.  
  • 18:50

    The UK and Irish governments are set to discuss the fallout from the Brexit vote for the first time on Wednesday. Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will talk about the impact of the referendum on cross-border relations when they meet in Belfast. -- From PA

  • 19:02
    David Cameron is likely explaining to the EU leaders where it all went wrong for the Remain campaign right now over a plate of poached veal tenderloin with seasonal baby vegetables. Strawberries for desert.
  • 19:13
  • 19:21
    And so that's where we'll leave it for today. But we'll be back tomorrow with more updates from the European Council summit as well as developments from within the Labour Party, Nicola Sturgeon's meeting with Martin Schultz, Charlie Flanagan's meeting with Theresa Villiers and anything else going on in Brussels, Britain, Ireland and beyond.