Frosty reception for Cameron at EU summit

Hello and goodbye. British PM David Cameron (right) and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker arriving at the EU Summit in Brussels yesterday. The summit comes amid anger among European leaders over Mr Cameron's decision to call the Brexit refe
Hello and goodbye. British PM David Cameron (right) and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker arriving at the EU Summit in Brussels yesterday. The summit comes amid anger among European leaders over Mr Cameron's decision to call the Brexit referendum and his handling of the campaign.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • British Prime Minister David Cameron wants Britain to maintain the "closest possible" ties with the European Union post- Brexit, but all angry European leaders want is for it to leave quickly and not expect special treatment.

As leaders of the 28-member bloc converged in Brussels for a two-day summit yesterday (early this morning, Singapore time), German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Mr Cameron could not "cherry- pick" in the exit negotiations.

"Anyone wishing to leave this family cannot expect to lose all the obligations but keep the privileges," she told the German Parliament before leaving for Brussels.

The EU summit comes amid deep anger among the other 27 European leaders over Mr Cameron's decision, firstly, to call the Brexit referendum and, secondly, his handling of the campaign itself.

That resentment has been compounded by fury over suspicions that Britain will now drag its feet over leaving, which would boost rising euro-sceptic forces within the EU. Mr Cameron, who had fought to remain in the EU, told his Parliament on Monday that he will not start yet the two-year countdown on leaving the EU. It begins when Britain formally invokes Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

His successor is not expected to be appointed until Sept 9.

During a stormy session in the European Parliament yesterday, Mr Nigel Farage, leader of the anti- EU UK Independence Party, said he had had the last laugh.

"Isn't it funny? When I came here 17 years ago and I said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the EU, you all laughed at me but you are not laughing now," Mr Farage said, adding that the EU was "in denial" about its failing.

Britain's decision to quit the EU has put the remaining 27 members - who will meet without Mr Cameron today - under pressure to find a way to stop other countries from following Britain out of the door.

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to meet European Parliament chiefs in Brussels today as she launches a drive to negotiate a way for Scotland to remain in the bloc.

Last Thursday's Brexit vote has already forced Mr Cameron to resign. Yesterday, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lost a non- binding no-confidence motion.

In the aftermath, Standard & Poor's slashed Britain's triple-A credit rating by two notches with a long-term negative outlook, while Fitch cut its rating from AA+ to AA, with a negative outlook.

The pound rose slightly yesterday after hitting a 31-year low as Asian stocks rallied and Europe's main indices rebounded from recent Brexit-driven heavy losses.

"None of the chaos... is anywhere near going away: The country is still without its next prime minister, the Labour Party is in disarray and the actual process to exit the EU has not even begun," said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Frosty reception for Cameron at EU summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe