EU ministers press UK for quick exit

BRUSSELS - EU states have urged Britain to hold speedy talks on leaving the bloc after it voted to end its membership in a historic referendum.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said negotiations should begin as "soon as possible".

He made the comments after an urgent meeting of the six EU founder members to discuss the decision.

British PM David Cameron has said he will step down by October to allow his successor to conduct talks.

The six countries attending the summit in Berlin - Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - first joined forces in the 1950s and still form the core of the EU.

"We say here together, this process should get under way as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe," Mr Steinmeier said.

The first summit of EU leaders with no British representation will be held on Wednesday, a day after Mr Cameron holds talks with members.

Global stock markets and the pound fell heavily on the news of the so-called "Brexit", while credit rating agency Moody's cut the UK's outlook to "negative".

The UK must now invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty, which then allows for two years for withdrawal to be negotiated.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU-UK split was "not an amicable divorce", but nor had they had a "deep love affair". He has also said exit negotiations should begin immediately.

"Britons decided yesterday [Thursday] that they want to leave the European Union, so it doesn't make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure," Mr Juncker said in an interview with Germany's ARD television network.

In another interview, with Bild newspaper, he said it was "first and foremost" a matter for Britain's EU commissioner Lord Jonathan Hill to decide whether to stay in his role, in charge of EU financial services.

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