Europe’s Frustration With Cameron Mounts at Ministerial Meeting

  • EU foreign ministers seek speedier start of U.K. exit process
  • ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it,’ says Dutch minister

David Cameron heads back into 10 Downing Street on June 24.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The U.K. faced calls from other European Union nations for a quicker start to the process of seceding from the EU, deepening the bloc’s frustration with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron said he would resign and let a successor who may be chosen by a Conservative Party conference in October trigger the negotiations on the U.K.’s exit from the EU. Most EU ministers who met on Friday in Luxembourg to discuss the process argued that “we should start this as soon as possible,” said Bert Koenders of the Netherlands.

“You are in or you’re out -- you can’t have your cake and eat it,” Koenders, the Dutch foreign minister, told reporters. “That means that, at the moment that there is an outcome, it’s important that the insecurity for citizens in Europe is as short as possible and that there is clarity on this.”

From left, Belgian Foreign minister Didier Reynders, German Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, Netherlands' Foreign minister Bert Koenders, Luxembourg's Foreign minister Jean Asselborn and France's Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault take a walk in the garden of the villa Borsig prior to post-Brexit talks in Berlin on June 25, 2016.
From left, Belgian Foreign minister Didier Reynders, German Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian Foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, Netherlands' Foreign minister Bert Koenders, Luxembourg's Foreign minister Jean Asselborn and France's Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault take a walk in the garden of the villa Borsig prior to post-Brexit talks in Berlin on June 25, 2016.
Photographer: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

After facing skepticism in the EU about the wisdom of holding a referendum on U.K. membership of the 28-nation bloc, Cameron is leaving office amid stronger doubts abroad about his policy toward Europe.

Koenders, who chaired the Luxembourg meeting because the Netherlands holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, said the bloc is seeking “transparent and predictable” discussions with the U.K. on its departure and wants to avoid a lengthy “vacuum.” Meanwhile, other ministers expressed concerns about the British referendum result stoking centrifugal forces in the EU.

“What I am afraid of is that those parties that are xenophobic, nationalistic, protectionist get a positive feedback from this Brexit outcome,” said Ann Linde, Sweden’s minister for European affairs. “The situation we are in now is a bad situation.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders signaled the U.K. is in more political trouble than the EU, calling the U.K. referendum result a “dangerous choice” for the country.

“It will have to engage in a negotiation with the European Union to leave the union,” Reynders said. “There is also a risk of the disunion of the United Kingdom.”

Back in the EU capital Brussels, Gianni Pittella, who leads the Socialist group in the European Parliament, captured continental frustration over Cameron’s tenure as British prime minister by saying on Friday that the U.K. referendum was a “crazy idea” prompted by internal party considerations.

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