EU referendum: Foreign ministers of EU's six founding members hold crisis meeting in Berlin to discuss Brexit response

Jake Cordell
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The original 6 members of the European project are today holding crisis talks in Berlin to discuss their response to Brexit
The original 6 members of the European project are today holding crisis talks in Berlin to discuss their response to Brexit (Source: Getty)

The original six members of the European project have met in Berlin today for crisis talks on how to handle the UK's decision to leave the European Union.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are to discuss how the EU should approach the mammoth negotiating task that is about the follow, while trying to keep the rest of the Europe together, before more formal meetings of the leaders take place next week.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, said the EU must "neither be hysterical nor fall into paralysis" in a cool-headed response to Brexit. He also said European leaders have to meet "the expectations of [European] people" in its response to the looming exit of the first ever country from the EU.

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"I am confident that these countries can send a message that we won't let anyone take Europe from us," he added.

"We must not run headlong into hectic action, pretending we have all the answers. But we must also not fall into depression or inaction after the British decision."

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The French president Francois Hollande expressed his regret at the UK's decision to leave the EU, stressing the UK and France will continue to work closely on economic and defence matters, along with the pressing need to tackle the refugee crisis. His words came after the mayor of Calais called for "the jungle" to be moved to the UK following Thursday's vote.

Before the summit, Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's finance minister, echoed calls from the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to begin the exit procedure - and trigger Article 50 - as soon as possible. Once Article 50 is invoked, the clock will begin ticking on a two-year countdown to agree the terms of a formal departure.

Read more: Could there be another EU referendum?

However, it is up to the UK to formally begin that procedure, and David Cameron has said the decision on timing will be one for his successor.

Presenting a united front and keeping the remaining 27 members together is now thought to be the EU's top priority.

With elections scheduled in France and Germany next year, and anti-EU politicians such as Marine Le Pen jumping on the Brexit vote, the EU's two most important countries face challenging domestic pressures which will undoubtedly come to bear on exit negotiations.

Next week, David Cameron will travel to a meeting of all 28 EU leaders to update them on the UK's decision to leave and outline his idea of where the exit process should go from here. In a sign of things to come, Cameron will then be kicked out of the meeting while the remaining 27 discuss their own strategy for how to respond to the vote.

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