Brexit turmoil continues to divide and confuse

EU leaders split over time frame; Scotland may block vote; markets on tenterhooks

Union flag banners hang across a street near the Houses of Parliament in central London. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Differences are emerging among European leaders about how to negotiate Britain's exit from the bloc ahead of a leaders' summit in Brussels tomorrow.

European lawmakers yesterday urged Britain to begin the European Union exit proceedings at the summit, as Germany suggested the country should be given time to "reconsider" the impact of its vote.

The president of the European Parliament, Mr Martin Schulz, told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that a period of limbo would "lead to even more insecurity and thus endanger jobs".

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told the Volkskrant: "We can't have the kind of dithering Boris Johnson (a key leader in the Leave campaign) is suggesting. Everyone wants clarity: people, businesses, financial markets."

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff insisted there was no rush to show Britain the door. "Politicians in London should take the time to reconsider the consequences of the Brexit decision - but by that, I emphatically do not mean Brexit itself," Mr Peter Altmaier said.

Dr Merkel will host the leaders of France, Italy and the EU in Berlin today amid fears Britain's vote to leave will create a domino effect in eurosceptic member states.

The German government itself appeared divided on the approach to negotiations, with Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel taking a hard line and ruling out any new EU offer to keep Britain in the fold.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry, who will fly to Brussels and London today for crisis talks with EU and British leaders, said the ideal of unity must remain paramount as Britain negotiates Brexit.

In Britain, political turmoil deepened as Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon mooted the idea on the BBC yesterday that Holyrood could try to block the United Kingdom's exit from the EU.

The opposition Labour party is also in crisis as its leader Jeremy Corbyn is facing a revolt by his lawmakers who have called for him to quit.

Investors are on edge as stock markets open today after they plunged last Friday and the sterling fell to a 31-year low.

Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, who was at the first annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in Beijing yesterday, said the vote "will cast a shadow over the global economy".

Ms Tomomi Inada, Japan's policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was quoted by Nikkei daily saying: "Speculative, violent moves have extremely negative effects."

Meanwhile, many Britons flocked to back an online petition demanding a second vote, with signatures exceeding three million yesterday.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline Brexit turmoil continues to divide and confuse. Subscribe