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Europe's top leaders in Naples pledge that union is not broken

By Colm Kelpie

The Brexit vote does not spell the end for the European Union, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pledged, as he held talks with his German and French counterparts on the future of the European project.

Smaller EU countries, such as Ireland, weren't involved in the gathering of the Eurozone's three big economies, although all remaining 27 member states will gather for an informal summit next month in Slovakia.

Mr Renzi hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Hollande on an island off Naples, where two Italian intellectuals wrote a manifesto in the wake of the Second World War calling for European political integration.

The political fallout from the Brexit vote enjoyed a brief lull over August after the frenzied activity that saw the unveiling of a new British Prime Minister, a new Cabinet and a shake-up in Whitehall.

The symbolic meeting yesterday of the three leaders on the island of Ventotene begins the groundwork for an informal summit of all European nations, bar the UK, in Bratislava next month, where the future of the European Union post-Brexit will be discussed.

Following their meeting, the three leaders addressed the press on an Italian aircraft carrier, where French President Hollande acknowledged that the vote in the UK on June 23 had led to uncertainty.

He said Europe can have a future of "unity and cohesion", but warned EU leaders and citizens against retreating into nationalism.

Mr Renzi said Brexit was not the end of the European Union.

"A lot of people thought that after Brexit, it would be over for Europe. That's not the case," Mr Renzi said.

The Italian prime minister said European leaders wanted to write a new chapter for the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk will visit Dublin next month for Brexit-related talks with Mr Kenny, ahead of the informal summit in Bratislava.

Mr Tusk will meet Mr Kenny before flying to London for talks with Ms May, as part of a tour of European capitals.

The Bratislava summit is due to take place on September 16 to discuss European reform in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The UK will not be represented at the summit, as it will only be for the remaining 27 member states.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Renzi said Europe needs to invest in defence, education and culture, while breaking free of bureaucratic rules.

Belfast Telegraph


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