Brexit: How Did Europe React?

Donald Tusk
European Council President Donald Tusk in Rome, Italy, May 5. Britain has voted to leave the EU. Max Rossi/Reuters

Britain's decision to leave the European Union marks not only a historic moment for the country, but one of the most cataclysmic events for the 28-member bloc in its history.

So it is perhaps predictable that reaction to the result has flooded in fast from across Europe.

Mainstream politicians across the continent were expressing their sadness at the result on Friday morning.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said that the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU would prompt a "wider reflection on the future of our Union," but that the 27 remaining members of are "determined to keep our unity." Tusk noted that EU laws would continue to apply until the U.K. formally leaves the EU, promising that there will be "no legal vacuum."

Ireland, Britain's nearest EU neighbour, reacted with alarm, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny saying the result had "very significant implications" for Ireland, and convening an early meeting, Sky News reported. A British departure from the EU raises the possibility of increased border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a tweet that the news was "truly sobering," and that it was a "sad day" for Europe and the U.K.

In Spain, where a general election is looming on Sunday, Javier Maroto, a deputy secretary of the ruling People's Party, and Jordi Sevilla Segura, a former Socialist Party minister, expressed dismay. Maroto called it "a threat for those of us who are on the side of security, certainty, trust," according to The Spain Report. Albert Rivera, leader of the centrist Ciudadanos party, said it was time for "more Europe" in response to the result.

In France, Francois Hollande is to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday. He had said before the vote that, regardless of the result, it was "necessary" for Europe to change.

While Manfred Weber, chair of the European People's Party Group of center-right parties, said the vote had caused huge damage to both Britain and Europe, and urged member states to conclude exit negotiations within two years and not give Britain any "special treatment."

But one class of politician across the continent was pleased: far-right parties welcomed the decision.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's Front National, tweeted that the result was a "victory for freedom," and changed her profile picture to a Union Jack flag.

While Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands' anti-Islam Freedom Party, said in a statement on his website that the Dutch people deserved a referendum as well. "We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy. If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide," Wilders said.