Quitting the European Union must not mean Britain “turning our backs on Europe”, David Cameron has said.
In Brussels for his last scheduled European Council summit as British prime minister, Mr Cameron said he would urge EU leaders to take a “constructive” approach to negotiations with his successor on Britain’s future relations with the remaining EU members.
Britain should seek “the closest possible relationship” with its former EU partners in both sides’ interests, he said.
Mr Cameron was speaking as chancellor George Osborne warned that tax rises and spending cuts will be needed within months to deal with the “prolonged period of economic adjustment” caused by last week’s vote in favour of Britain leaving the EU.
And EU chiefs underlined their position that they will not start negotiations over a new relationship until the UK gives formal notification of its intention to withdraw by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Boris Johnson — who is tipped as Mr Cameron’s most likely successor as PM — has called for informal discussions ahead of notification, while health secretary Jeremy Hunt suggests a deal on a new treaty should be agreed and approved in a second referendum before Article 50 is even deployed, setting in train a two-year departure process.
Speaking ahead of his discussions with leaders of the other 27 EU nations in Brussels, Mr Cameron said: “I’ll be explaining that Britain will be leaving the European Union, but I want that process to be as constructive as possible and I hope the outcome will be as constructive as possible.
“While we are leaving the European Union, we mustn’t be turning our backs on Europe. These countries are our neighbours, our friends, our allies, our partners and I very much hope we will seek the closest possible relationship in terms of trade and co-operation and security, because that is good for us and it’s good for them.”
European Council president Donald Tusk said the EU was ready to start the process of withdrawal “even today”, but would have to be “patient” as it was for the UK to initiate withdrawal.
He added: “We have precise procedures, we have a ready-worked plan — but I would like to underline very, very clearly that without notification from the UK, we will not start any negotiations on the withdrawal process or on future relations.”
And European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Brussels chiefs have been ordered not to enter into any “secret negotiations” with the UK over the terms of Brexit.
Mr Juncker made clear that Britain will not be allowed to dictate the terms of its new relationship with Europe, saying: “It is we who must decide what happens, not just those who wish to leave.”
[timgcap=European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker]JeanClaudeJuncker12June16_large.jpg[/timgcp]
Mr Juncker — who has said Brexit negotiations should start immediately — renewed his demand for clarity from London about its intentions, telling an emergency session of the European Parliament: “I don’t think we should see any shadow-boxing or any cat-and-mouse games. It is clear what the British people want and we should act accordingly.
“Let me be very clear: we can’t have secret attempts to take the British Government aside, to become secret, informal negotiations.”
British government sources said Mr Cameron would use the day to urge member states and EU institutions to take a “constructive” approach to negotiations over a new relationship with the UK.
But Mr Cameron has not been invited to the second day today, when the other 27 leaders will hold informal discussions on their stance towards Britain’s demands.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt called for a second referendum on Britain’s terms for leaving the European Union before the withdrawal process is triggered.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he proposed a “Norway-plus” arrangement under which the UK would have access to the single market with limits on free movement rights.
“Before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election,” he said. Mr Osborne called for a solution which allows Britain “the closest possible ties with our neighbours”, with trade in goods and services — and particularly financial services — as free as can be achieved.
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