The leaders of the European Union (EU) have expressed regret over the decision of Britain to leave the union but say they respect the decision of the people.
This is contained in a joint statement issued by the EU leaders on Friday in Brussels obtained from the Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS in Abuja.
The EU leaders included Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.
The others were Prime Minister Mark Rutte, holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.
The statement said Tusk, Schulz and Rutte met on Friday morning in Brussels on the invitation of Juncker, and discussed the outcome of the United Kingdom referendum.
“In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision but respect it.
“This is an unprecedented situation but we are united in our response.
“We will stand strong and uphold the EU’s core values of promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples,â€ the leaders jointly stated.
They pledged that the remaining members of the EU would carry on with the vision of the union.
“The Union of 27 member states will continue. The Union is the framework of our common political future.
“We are bound together by history, geography and common interests and will develop our cooperation on this basis.
“Together we will address our common challenge to generate growth, increase prosperity and ensure a safe and secure environment for our citizens.
“The institutions will play their full role in this endeavour,â€ the EU leaders said.
They, however, asked the UK to, as a matter of urgency, formalise its exit without any further delay.
“We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be.
“Any delay will unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way.
“Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the European Union,â€ they said.
According to them, the UK, technically, remains a member of the EU until it fulfills all the conditions for its formal withdrawal.
“We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union.
“Until this process of negotiations is over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this.
“According to the Treaties which the United Kingdom has ratified, EU law continues to apply to the full to and in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a Member.â€
“As agreed, the New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Unionâ€, reached at the European Council on Feb. 18 to 19, 2016, will now not take effect.
“It ceases to exist. There will be no renegotiations,â€ the EU leaders said.
They, however, pledged continued close relationship with the UK in their future dealings.
“As regards the United Kingdom, we hope to have it as a close partner of the European Union also in the future.
“We expect the United Kingdom to formulate its proposals in this respect.
“Any agreement, which will be concluded with the United Kingdom as a third country, will have to reflect the interests of both sides and be balanced in terms of rights and obligations. the leaders said.â€