BERLIN•• • Britain leaving the European Union promises to be a fraught divorce, with the first exchanges showing how breaking up will be hard to do after more than 40 years together.
Foreign ministers of EU's founding member states, gathering in Berlin for crisis talks yesterday, reiterated calls made by leaders soon after Britain's shock referendum outcome that London must begin the process of leaving "as soon as possible".
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned against foot-dragging now that Britain had made its choice, saying that Brexit would "not be amicable". But it should be quick, said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who hosted the talks.
His French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault went as far as to call for British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said he would resign by October, to make way for a new leader to manage the transition out of the union.
The call for haste piled pressure on Mr Cameron, who faces a plunging currency, wilting stock market and uncertainties over an already weakening economy. In addition, Moody's said Brexit could hurt Britain's economic prospects.
• Advisers to EU leaders meet in Brussels.
• European Council president Donald Tusk and French President Francois Hollande meet in Paris and then travel to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
• European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker holds talks with 28 EU commissioners in Brussels.
• EU summit in Brussels where British PM David Cameron reports on the Brexit vote and what Britain will do next, and then goes home.
• Mr Tusk, the EU summit chair, holds talks with the remaining 27 member states .
Fears of global economic contagion also hit US stocks, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling 3.39 per cent last Friday.
Thursday's vote also heightened fears of a break-up of the United Kingdom. Yesterday, Scotland's pro-EU First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, speaking after an emergency Cabinet session, said her devolved government was preparing to present legislation allowing a second independence referendum while continuing discussions on its place within the EU.
The EU's core members see Britain's shock decision as a threat to unity, and are eager to shore up the bloc. "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 the work towards it," Mr Steinmeier said.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, trying to calm tensions, said the negotiations with Britain should not be conducted in such a way as to be seen as a deterrent to other countries, and that there was no hurry for London to trigger the process for leaving.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz called Mr Cameron's decision to wait until October to leave "scandalous", saying that he was "taking the whole (European) continent hostage".
Mr Ayrault also warned of the dangers of delay. "We have to give a new sense to Europe, otherwise populism will fill the gap," he said.
Eurosceptics in a number of member states have welcomed the vote by Britain to become the first sovereign state to leave the EU and have called for their own referendums.
Slovakia's far right People's Party yesterday launched a petition for a referendum on the country's future in the EU. "Citizens of Great Britain have decided to refuse the diktat from Brussels. It is high time for Slovakia to leave the sinking European 'Titanic' as well," the party said on its website.
The European Central Bank added to the pressure by saying Britain's financial industry, which employs 2.2 million people, would lose the right to serve clients in the EU unless the country signed up to its single market - anathema to "leave" campaigners who are set to lead the next government.
The Brexit vote has left Britain deeply divided, with many feeling more uncertain about their future.
Young people vented their anger yesterday against more eurosceptic older voters as they came to terms with a momentous decision to leave the EU, with the hashtag #NotInMyName trending on Twitter.
"I feel angry. Those who voted leave, they're not going to fight for the future," said Ms Mary Treinen, 23, a technological consultant.
Underscoring the anger, more than 1.5 million have signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the official British government and Parliament website - more than 10 times the 100,000 signatures required for a proposal to be discussed in the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS