BRUSSELS (AFP) - European Union heavyweights France and Germany are readying a joint plan for the future of the bloc after Britain's June 23 referendum, irrespective of whether Britons vote to remain or leave, sources said on Friday.
While the EU insists there is no "plan B", officials from several key countries including France, Germany and Italy quietly met in Brussels on Monday to discuss the aftermath of the vote, one of the European sources said.
They were joined by the chief aide to European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Selmayr, who earlier this week caused a stir by warning of the "horror scenario" of populist leaders taking power in Europe and the US.
"The subject was mainly communication, namely what will be said officially by who, and in what way" on June 24, depending on which way the referendum goes, the European source told AFP.
The source said there had not been "deep discussions of the consequences" of the vote on the 28-nation club.
In Berlin, the German government refused to comment on the meeting. "I can't confirm or deny anything - if there have been confidential meetings, they are confidential," said government spokesman Hans-Georg Streiter.
The EU's next scheduled major discussion on the "Brexit" issue will not be until the summit of European leaders on June 28-29, which has already been pushed back several days as it was due to coincide with the referendum.
But in the meantime, Paris and Berlin have already started to lay down markers for a common initiative, sources said, even as the recent wave of crises engulfing the EU had seemed to have put the bloc's old Franco-German axis in the shade.
The EU is grappling with a series of emergencies ranging from the migration crisis to the return of the Greek debt issue and, of course, the possibility that Britain could become the first country to crash out of the EU.
One diplomatic source told AFP that the two capitals had started to discuss the joint plan, without going into details of the content.
"We need to have a political message, a method, a calender," added another senior European official, calling it a "Franco-German initiative" and a "political discussion on the values and the historical context of Europe."
The plan would involve security issues, but also on issues of "youth" given the high levels of unemployment among young people in the bloc. It would also not be limited to the euro zone, the 19 countries that use the euro single currency, the official said.
Further details could emerge on Sunday after French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at Verdun in in eastern France to commemorate the centenary of one of World War I's bloodiest battles.