united on Friday despite Britain voting to leave, as
fears grew that a "chain reaction" of further
referendums could tear the bloc apart.
As Brussels, Paris and Berlin woke up to the grim
news, leaders warned of a difficult divorce in a
sign that Britain will win few concessions in
negotiating life outside the circle of the other 27
members of the bloc.
"Today on behalf of the 27 leaders, I can say that
we are determined to keep our unity as 27," EU
President Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels
in the first official reaction to the vote.
With global markets in turmoil, Tusk — who had
earlier warned that a Leave vote could "end
Western political civilisation" — said it was "a
historic moment but for sure not a moment for
Although the EU had recently gone through "the
most difficult" years in its 60-year history, it was
worth remembering that "what does not kill you
makes you stronger," he said.
But the biggest fear in capitals across the
continent was of contagion, with immediate calls
by far-right leaders in France and the Netherlands
for their countries to hold their own votes on EU
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said the
British result was a "victory for freedom" and
there should be referendums across Europe,
while Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders said "the
Dutch people deserve a referendum as well."
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said
he was speaking to Germany Chancellor Angela
Merkel to avoid a "chain reaction" of eurosceptic
success across Europe.
"The chain reaction that the eurosceptics are
celebrating everywhere will absolutely not
happen," he told Germany's ZDF television.
Stunned European nations said they were
saddened by the news, as they struggled to work
out what lies ahead, with meetings planned in
several capitals ahead of an EU summit on
EU heavyweight Germany said the news was "truly
"It looks like a sad day for #Europe +the
#UnitedKingdom," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
Steinmeier wrote on Twitter.
"Sad for the United Kingdom. Europe carries on
but it must react and win back the trust of its
people. It is urgent," agreed his French
counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, also writing on
French President Francois Hollande was expected
to react to the news after a ministerial meeting on
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel admitted it
was a "blow to the European project".
He called for a special meeting of EU leaders in
July "to reaffirm our commitment… We have to
define our priorities and set out a new future for
"I respect but regret the outcome #Brexit. Lux
continues to work for a strong EU," Luxembourg
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel tweeted, while
Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite wrote:
"#Brexit: respect, regret, re-engage".
But there were signs that Britain would find
negotiating a new relationship with the EU
The head of the main centre-right group in the
European Parliament, Manfred Weber, warned
that Britain should not expect an easy ride.
"Exit negotiations should be concluded within 2
years at max. There cannot be any special
treatment. Leave means leave."