A shocked European Union (EU) said it would stay united, after Britain voted to leave last week. Some feared a “chain reaction” as other countries thought about leaving, too.
As important European cities like Brussels, Paris and Berlin woke up to the news last Friday, leaders warned that Britain will find life hard outside the circle of 27 countries.
“Today on behalf of the 27 leaders, I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as 27,” EU President Donald Tusk said in Brussels, Belgium, the EU capital.
The British currency – the pound – lost a lot of value as global companies thought again about trading with Britain. Tusk said it was “a historic moment but for sure not a moment for hysterical reactions”.
The EU has recently gone through “the most difficult” years in its 60-year history, as it tries to solve the problems of immigration and struggling economies. Tusk said it was worth remembering that “what does not kill you makes you stronger”.
One of the continent’s biggest fears was other countries voting to leave the EU, too. Right-wing leaders in France and the Netherlands, who want independence too, said they would try to hold their own votes on EU membership. Germany, one of the strongest countries in the EU, said the news was “truly sobering”. “Sad for the United Kingdom. Europe carries on but it must react and win back the trust of its people. It is urgent,” agreed French lawmaker Jean-Marc Ayrault.
There were signs Britain would find it hard to work out a new relationship with the EU. Union lawmaker Manfred Weber warned that Britain should not expect an easy ride, saying “There cannot be any special treatment. Leave means leave”.