Germany's Merkel warns EU against knee-jerk reaction to Brexit, France's Hollande warns of far-right elements

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a statement in Berlin, Germany, on June 24, 2016.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a statement in Berlin, Germany, on June 24, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLINE (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday (June 24) warned European Union member states against drawing hasty conclusions about Britain's decision to quit the bloc, as that risked further splitting Europe. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande warned that Brexit could also further support for far-right elements in the EU.

"We take note of the British people's decision with regret. There is no doubt that this is a blow to Europe and to the European unification process," she said.

But "what the consequences of this would be... would depend on whether we - the other 27 member states of the EU - prove to be willing and able to not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum in Great Britain, which would only further divide Europe," said Dr Merkel.

Member states should "calmly and prudently analyse and evaluate the situation, before making the right decisions together", said Dr Merkel, who will host talks with French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and European Council president Donald Tusk in Berlin on Monday.

Recalling the founding aim of the EU, Dr Merkel urged Europeans to "never forget that the idea of European unity was an idea of peace".

Mr Hollande said on Friday that Britain's vote to leave the EU was a "grave test for Europe" in view of the economic and financial consequences.

"The British vote poses a grave test for Europe, which must show solidity and strength in its response to the economic and financial risks," Mr Hollande said after meeting with his cabinet.

Expressing his chagrin over the vote, he said: "It always takes less time to undo than to do, to destroy than to build."

But "the choice is theirs, and we must respect it", the Socialist president said.

Echoing Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's tweet earlier on Friday that Europe must win back the trust of its people, Mr Hollande said "the decision also requires a lucid awareness of the inadequacies of Europe's functioning and people's loss of trust in the project".

Brexit could also further support for far-right elements in the EU, he warned, saying: "There is a huge danger in the face of extremism and populism."

The French leader had on Wednesday warned that Brexit would have "extremely serious consequences".

"It's more than the future of the United Kingdom that is at stake, it's the future of the European Union," he said.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the vote revealed "a malaise that has been ignored for too long" within the EU.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the European Union is like a house in need of renovation, adding his voice to calls for change in the wake of Britain's vote to leave.

Admitting it was "not an easy day", Mr Renzi said: "Europe is our house, the house of our children and our grandchildren. We know that the house needs to be renovated, perhaps freshened up, but that it will still be our house tomorrow."