PARIS: European leaders on Wednesday heaped pressure on Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May to launch the country’s divorce proceedings from the EU, while Russia’s Vladimir Putin said he was ready for “constructive dialogue” with David Cameron’s successor.
EU president Donald Tusk was among the first to congratulate May, who will have the tricky task of overseeing her country’s departure from the European Union after Cameron resigned following last month’s shock Brexit referendum result.
In a brief letter to May, Tusk said he looked forward to a “fruitful working relationship” with the former home secretary.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged May not to delay the start of the Brexit talks.
The outcome of the vote to leave the EU “has created a new situation which the United Kingdom and the European Union will have to address soon,” Juncker said in a letter published on his Twitter account.
His comments were echoed by European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
“Leadership issue settled, now I expect we work quickly to deliver certainty,” he said.
Hollande also pressed May not to delay the divorce discussions, which can only begin once Britain has triggered the bloc’s Article 50, the formal process for withdrawing from the EU.
Hollande “reiterated his wish for the negotiations on Britain’s departure from the European Union to be undertaken as soon as possible,” the President’s office said in a statement after the two leaders spoke by phone.
Germany’s Angela Merkel also spoke by phone with May to congratulate her on the appointment, the chancellor’s spokesman said.
Both agreed that “friendly ties between the two countries should continue, including in the upcoming negotiations on Britain’s departure from the EU,” he added.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel added his voice to those pleading for a speedy start to the Brexit procedure, following three weeks of financial and political turmoil triggered by the vote.
“We can’t afford a long period of uncertainty,” he said.
Russia’s President Putin for his part sent a message to May confirming “his willingness to have a constructive dialogue and to collaborate with the British Prime Minister about current issues concerning bilateral relations and the international agenda,” the Kremlin said.
Putin—whose country has had testy ties with Britain in recent years—also sent a telegram to Cameron, saying: “I hope that your rich political experience will be put to good use for the United Kingdom and the whole world.”
A White House spokesman congratulated May on her new position, adding that President Barack Obama was hoping for an “orderly process and a good-faith negotiation between the UK and the EU.”