The favourites to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron pushed today for a delay in initiating Britain’s talks to leave the EU as French President Francois Hollande insisted “Brexit” cannot be cancelled or delayed.
In further signs of economic fallout from last week’s shock vote, the government also warned that Britain will likely abandon a key promise to achieve a budget surplus by 2020, while no-frills airline EasyJet announced contingency plans to ensure its European operations after Brexit.
Britain has been plunged into extraordinary political turmoil since Britons voted by 52 per cent in favour of leaving the European Union, with the ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour party in disarray and the country deeply polarised.
As he outlined his bid for Cameron’s job today, top Brexit campaigner Michael Gove said he had “no expectation” that Article 50 - the formal procedure for leaving the EU - would be invoked this year.
Justice minister Gove, who torpedoed fellow anti-EU campaigner Boris Johnson’s leadership hopes yesterday, also said he would pull Britain out of the single market, end free movement of people and impose a new immigration system favouring skilled workers.
Gove’s rival and the current favourite in the race, Theresa May, had said yesterday that Article 50 “should not be invoked before the end of the year”.
EU leaders have called for a swift divorce however, fearful of the impact of Britain’s uncertain future on economic growth and a potential domino effect in eurosceptic member states.
“The decision has been taken, it cannot be delayed and it cannot be cancelled, now they have to face the consequences,” Hollande said on the sidelines of Battle of the Somme centenary ceremonies in France.
He said a speedy Brexit “would avert all the uncertainties and instability, especially in the economic and financial domains. The faster it goes, the better it will be for them”.
Highlighting the uncertainty the “Leave” vote has created for business, easyJet said it was trying to acquire a certificate to operate in a European country “to enable EasyJet to fly across Europe as we do today”.
The outcome of the June 23 vote unleashed the worst chaos in British politics in living memory, with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership also under threat and Scotland’s government fighting for independence to keep its EU membership.