Where’s London? EU Quick to Forget U.K. Capital After Brexit

  • Slovak president skips London in reading list of EU capitals
  • Friday marked start of EU’s rotating presidency for Slovakia

It’s only been a week since Britain voted to break up with the European Union, and it probably won’t walk out for at least two years -- but the EU is already moving on.

In a symbolic move, London was missing from a list of all the EU’s national capitals read out by Slovak President Andrej Kiska at a lavish ceremony Friday to mark the start of his country’s six-month term chairing meetings of the bloc’s governments.

“We will strengthen the sense that we all together are responsible for a Europe of peace, democracy, solidarity,” Kiska said in front of an audience including EU President Donald Tusk at Bratislava’s historic opera house. He then ran through the list of the 27 cities, from Athens to Zagreb. No mention of London, which has been an EU capital since 1973.

After the U.K. referendum result last week the EU has been pressing the British government to make clear what sort of relationship it wants. According to the EU’s rules, the U.K. will remain a full member for two years after activating the bloc’s exit mechanism -- and that probably won’t happen until there’s a new British prime minister.

Rotating Presidency

Countries take turns holding the EU’s rotating presidency for six months at a time. Slovakia has pledged to spearhead the first discussions on how a EU post-Brexit should develop.

By quirk of the rota, the U.K. was due to start its presidency stint on July 1 next year. That almost certainly won’t happen now, EU officials say, although it’s not been decided which country will take its place in a role often seen as bringing prestige, if not much influence these days.

If absent from the speeches, the U.K. certainly wasn’t very far from the mind, judging by a slip of the tongue by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a press conference in Bratislava earlier in the day.

“We want to use during the British -- that’s the joke of the day, the British presidency -- during the Slovak presidency, all instruments and means at our disposal to deepen the internal market,” Juncker said.

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