Why EU wants a swift Brexit (but isn't likely to get it)

Despite European Union pressure, Britain isn't in a hurry to trigger the 'exit clause' from the EU.

Eric Vidal/Reuters
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomes Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, prior to a plenary session at the European Parliament on the outcome of the 'Brexit' in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday.

European Union leaders expressed in no uncertain terms that since Britain plans to leave the organization, it must start the formal exit process sooner rather than later. Yet Britain isn't poised to begin official exit negotiations until three months from now at the earliest, a delay EU member states warn will prolong the uncertainty that has rocked global markets.

Financial markets started to stabilize Tuesday after Britain's vote to end 43 years of EU membership wiped a record $3 trillion of the value of world stocks in the following two days of trading.

The economic and political turmoil is most acute in Britain, where the pound dropped to a 31 year low and the opposition Labour party passed a vote of no-confidence in their party leader, who refused to quit. As leaders in London struggle to outline a path forward, the EU eagerly awaits a clear position from Britain.

"I want the UK to clarify its position. Not today, not tomorrow at 9 a.m., but soon," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in an unprecedented emergency session of the EU parliament Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. "We cannot allow ourselves to remain in a prolonged period of uncertainty."

"The process for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union must start as soon as possible," French President Francois Hollande said, according to the AP.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign against the Brexit and tendered his resignation Friday, has said he will not be the one to launch the official exit negotiation process, leaving that responsibility to his successor, who should take over in October.

Once Britain has notified the EU of its intention to trigger Article 50, the "exit clause," it begins its two-year window for formal departure negotiations to draw up exit terms that must be approved of by a qualified majority of member states, about two-thirds, and the European Parliament. Only once this process is complete can the details of Britain's post-membership relationship with the EU, including trade talks, be finalized.

British "leave" campaigners have indicated a desire to begin informal negotiations with the EU before triggering Article 50, so they have an idea of what their future relationship with the bloc will look like before committing themselves to leave – a proposal soundly rejected by the EU.

"No notification, no negotiation," Mr. Juncker said to applause in the European Parliament, according to the AP.

"We cannot start some sort of informal talks without having received the notice from Great Britain. This is very clear to me,"  German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists in Berlin on Monday, as the BBC reported. She said the EU does "not want a stalemate."

"But we have to be sure we are not hanging in the balance, and the first step must be taken by Great Britain," she said.

Some are questioning whether Britain will ever trigger Article 50. A senior EU official involved in the process said he thought Britain may find a way to never formally announce its departure and Nordea bank analysts gave the Brexit a 70 percent likelihood.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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