BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain needs to hand in its formal notice to leave the European Union immediately and cannot wait until the British Conservative Party has established its next leader, European Parliament leaders said on Friday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation, said Britain would probably make such a notification only in October, once a new leader of the Tory party is chosen to succeed him.
“An internal cat-fight of the Tory party is needed and a whole continent and all the British citizens included who voted will have to wait for it. That’s not serious at all,” Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberals, third biggest bloc in the European Parliament.
Manfred Weber, head of the largest group, the centre-right EPP, also called for Cameron to trigger Britain’s exit at an EU summit on Tuesday and for leave negotiations to start immediately.
Under EU law, a country that wants to leave the bloc has two years for negotiations on the terms of the divorce, but only starting from the moment it formally notifies the EU of its intention to exit.
Some Brexit supporters have suggested London could delay such notification, to make time for informal talks on the best possible exit deal.
“We have the will of the British people on the table and it is now the question to implement it. And the most important thing is that we do this very quickly. This is our main message,” Weber told reporters.
“We need to avoid a long period of uncertainty and the European continent cannot be occupied by an internal Tory battle about who will be the next leader of the Tory party and the prime ministers of Great Britain,” Weber said.
“I expect from the British government from the current government in office, I expect from them to do immediately the necessary steps especially next week when there is a Council meeting (EU summit). We want to immediately start with negotiations ... leave means leave,” Weber said.
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.