• Minister Gozi says ‘the sooner the better’ for exit process
  • Priority is to ‘maintain unity’ of the other 27 members

Italy urged the U.K. to formally launch its exit from the European Union as soon as possible, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s junior minister for European affairs saying the sooner Britain leaves, the better.

“We don’t want to spend months talking about procedure, we need a political response from the EU immediately,” Undersecretary Sandro Gozi said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We need to maintain the unity of the 27, and to see which new policies can address the reasons for the crisis.”

As British premier David Cameron prepared to face his 27 fellow EU leaders in Brussels for the first time since the referendum, Gozi acknowledged that it’s up to the U.K. to set the pace.

“We want to clear things up soon but of course the ball is in the British court,” Gozi said.

EU countries are divided on how much pressure to pile on the U.K. to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which triggers the two-year countdown to an exit from the bloc. Asked whether Italy would be ready to wait until the end of the year, Gozi said: “We think the sooner, the better. It’s hard to make forecasts on that timetable.”

In the meantime, he said the EU should act to increase investment, boost growth, help young people and contain the impact of migration on local communities.

The EU’s divided response to its biggest refugee crisis since World War II was one of the reasons for the victory of the “Leave” vote in Britain, Gozi said. He said Italy expects EU leaders to agree a package of measures on immigration based partly on Italian proposals including investments in the migrants’ countries of origin.

“We needed this concrete action before the referendum,” Gozi said. “We need it even more after Brexit.”

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