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Germany's Angela Merkel says 'no need to be nasty to Britain' after Brexit vote

Published 25/06/2016

The Prime Minister announced his resignation yesterday in a day of high political drama
The Prime Minister announced his resignation yesterday in a day of high political drama

German chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted there is "no need to be nasty" to Britain over its "divorce" terms from the EU.

The intervention came despite the EU putting David Cameron under intense pressure to immediately begin Brexit talks as France's foreign minister suggested a new replacement UK prime minister could be put in Downing Street within days.

Mr Cameron said he would leave it to a successor chosen in October to trigger the two-year process of negotiations envisaged by EU treaties when he announced his resignation in the wake of the humiliating referendum defeat.

But the Prime Minister's slow-motion exit plan has drawn considerable fire on the Continent.

Mrs Merkel said it "shouldn't take forever" for Britain to deliver formal notification of its intention to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

But she said she "would not fight over a short period of time", and played down suggestions that remaining EU states would want to punish the UK for its decision, saying there was "no need to be particularly nasty in any way in the negotiations".

The words were in stark contrast to the stance adopted by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker who insisted the proposed delay "doesn't make sense", and he was backed by foreign ministers of the EU's six founding members, meeting in Berlin for emergency talks on Britain's seismic vote.

Mr Juncker said that Britain's departure was "not an amicable divorce" and talks should begin "immediately" on wrapping up what was never "a tight love affair anyway".

Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said negotiations should begin "as soon as possible" while his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault said that in order for the UK to proceed with its exit, "they must designate a new prime minister, which would certainly require several days".

As Brexit dominated the Continent it continued to send shockwaves through the political system at home as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted he would fight any attempt to oust him by MPs who blame him for for not getting the party's vote behind Remain.

Asked whether he would stand in any leadership contest resulting from the no confidence motion tabled by Labour backbenchers, he replied: "Yes, I am here."

Mr Corbyn set his face against a second referendum to try to overturn the result of Thursday's vote despite a petition on the parliamentary website calling for another vote passing 1.3 million signatures,

"A decision has been made, I think we have got to accept that decision and work out our relationship with Europe in the future," Mr Corbyn said.

Mr Corbyn was heckled when he attended London LGBT Pride celebrations by a Labour activist who blamed him for the Leave vote.

In contrast to Mr Corbyn, Labour MP David Lammy insisted the referendum was only "advisory and non-binding" and the Commons should vote to reject its result and halt "the madness of Brexit."

An emergency cabinet meeting of the Scottish Government in Edinburgh formally agreed to press ahead with legislation to pave the way for a potential second independence referendum, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said was "very much on the table".

Ms Sturgeon said her administration was also entering "immediate discussions" with EU institutions and other member states to "explore possible options to protect Scotland's place in the EU".

With the financial consequences of Brexit causing increasing concern, influential credit rating agency Moody's downgraded the UK's outlook to "negative", warning it was facing "a prolonged period of uncertainty" with implications for the country's medium-term growth.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon denied Mr Cameron's decision to defer his exit until the autumn left the Government a rudderless ship.

The comments came as a prominent Leave advocate, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, came under fire for saying a post-Brexit Britain could still join the single market with its free movement of labour rules.

As the impact from the 52% - 48% Brexit win continued to reverberate, Tory Remain backers were getting behind Home Secretary Theresa May as the best-placed candidate for a leadership battle with Brexit standard-bearer Boris Johnson.

Former minister Sir Alan Duncan cast doubt on assumptions that the former London mayor was the inevitable choice as Mr Cameron's successor, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Do not necessarily assume that he is the darling of the Conservative Party activists.

"A lot of them have loved the notoriety and the excitement. But actually, once you scratch the surface a little bit and ask the second question, a lot of them don't want a permanent ride on the big dipper."

The UK's representative on the European Commission, Lord Hill, announced he will stand down on July 15. The Conservative peer said he was "very disappointed" by the Brexit vote and believed UK membership was "good for our place in the world and good for our economy".

Chancellor George Osborne has focused on ensuring financial stability since the result was announced and has been in regular talks with Bank of England governor Mark Carney, according to Treasury sources.

"He has been talking to all the G7 finance minsters to reassure them that there remains a strong economy. That's where all his energies have been," they added.

Mr Cameron fulfilled a commitment to visit the Armed Forces Day event in Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, where he watched the main parade from the saluting platform.

As he arrived in the town, which voted 70% for withdrawal, a heckler shouted "traitor" at him.

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