Theresa May says UK will not take up upcoming presidency of the European Council after Brexit vote

 
James Nickerson
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Final Meeting Of The UK Government Cabinet Before The General Election
May said the UK is not leaving Europe (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK will not take up its scheduled presidency of the European Council in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The presidency will instead go to Baltic state Estonia. It was due to succeed the UK at the start of 2018, but will get bumped up six months, according to reports.

The announcement from Downing Street comes ahead of the prime minister's first overseas diplomatic trip to visit Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande.

May told European Council President Donald Tusk that it is "the right thing to do given we will be very busy with negotiations to leave the EU", a Downing Street spokesman said.

Read more: May sets off to Germany on first overseas diplomatic trip

The UK is scheduled to take on the presidency for six months in the second half of 2017. It rotates on a six-month basis between all 28-member states, and gives each country an opportunity to shape the agenda of the the bloc.

However, May has stressed that while "Brexit means Brexit", the UK will not be leaving Europe.

Ahead of the meetings in Berlin and Paris, May has said she wants to build a strong personal relationship with her counterparts, and emphasise the value of economic and security relations with countries of the EU.

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