US wants Britain to remain 'strong leader' in Europe

2017-03-29 22:06
A greeting card bearing a good luck message is displayed in a stationery shop in Westminster Underground station in London. (Oli Scharff, AFP)

A greeting card bearing a good luck message is displayed in a stationery shop in Westminster Underground station in London. (Oli Scharff, AFP)

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Washington - The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it wanted Britain to remain a strong leader in Europe even as it began its withdrawal from the European Union.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said: "We respect the will of the British electorate and her majesty's government in taking steps of departing the European Union.

"Whatever future the UK-EU relationship looks like, we want the UK to remain a strong leader in Europe," he said.

Other countries will follow

Nine months after a referendum on Brexit that continues to divide the country, the British ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, on Wednesday delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk formally launching the process that will lead to Britain's withdrawal.

President Donald Trump has irritated European leaders by praising Britain's exit from the European Union and predicting that other countries would follow.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told US Vice President Mike Pence that Trump should refrain from urging other countries to leave the EU, warning in an interview with the Financial Times last week that if the EU collapses war in the Balkans would follow.

Spicer was asked about Junker's comment that Trump did not appear interested in European affairs.

"The president is very well-steeped in world affairs, especially Europe, Nato," Spicer said.

Go through transition

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would want to bolster trade with Britain after it secedes from the EU.

"The United Kingdom remains a friend and ally and economic partner and we will, of course, work with them as they go through the transition that they're embarking upon," Trudeau said.

"We'll continue to look for ways to create closer trade ties and opportunities for better jobs and economic growth that benefits both of our countries".

Britain is Canada's fourth-biggest trading partner, but would be excluded from a Canada-EU trade pact once it leaves the EU in two years - a deadline prompted when British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered formal divorce proceedings.

Parliament members in both London and Ottawa have called for swift negotiations on a separate bilateral trade deal in order to mitigate any trade disruptions.

Officials have suggested that the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) would be a good base for negotiations.

Constructive manner

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday snubbed May's call for negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU to run alongside talks on defining their future relationship.

"The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship... and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship," Merkel said in Berlin.

The German leader also called for "fair and constructive" negotiations with Britain, saying that "we, the EU, would carry out the upcoming talks in a fair and constructive manner".

Other reactions

"We already miss you... There is no reason to pretend this is a happy day" - EU President Donald Tusk.

.French President Francois Hollande: While Brexit is "sentimentally painful" for the Europeans, it would be "economically painful" for the British. But "it is not our intention to punish (the British) for the principle".

.European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani - "Today isn't a good day. #Brexit marks a new chapter in our Union's history, but we're ready, we'll move on, hoping UK remains (a) close partner".

.Manfred Weber, head of European People's Party (EPP), the biggest group in the European Parliament: "The politicians who fought for #Brexit were allowed to grow up in a free Europe. Today they are building new walls... History will show that Brexit is a tremendous mistake. It will create a lot of damage for both sides".

.German daily Die Welt, in accented English: "Dear Brits, ze door is schtill open".

.Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders: "The Netherlands are committed to avoiding a divorce and building another friendship" with Britain. "We want to prevent others from awarding themselves the biggest parts of the cake... Let's stay calm, be realistic and negotiate".

.Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno: "It is a historic day that will mark Europe's entry onto a path still unknown." I hope that "European citizens will come out with advantages".

Staff pensions

And finally - AP reported that May said Britain had not received a multi-billion exit bill from the European Union.

EU officials have said Britain will have to pay as much as €50m bill before it leaves to cover EU staff pensions and other obligations.

May said in an interview that "there isn't a formal demand. The negotiations haven't started yet".

She did not indicate how much Britain would be willing to pay, saying only that Britain will no longer pay "significant sums of money on an annual basis" to the EU.

But May added: "We're a law-abiding nation. We will meet obligations that we have."

Read more on:    eu  |  theresa may  |  donald trump  |  uk  |  us  |  brexit

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