The president of the European Parliament has said Britain’s vote in June to leave the EU is a disaster for both the UK and the EU.
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, has described the Brexit vote in June's referendum as a "disaster" for both the UK and the European Union.
In a speech at the London School of Economics on Friday afternoon, Mr Schulz said the leave vote represented a "lose, lose" situation for both sides and, after talks with Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday, he suggested the UK government was taken by surprise by the referendum result and was "in no way prepared" for Brexit negotiations.
Mr Schulz, stressing that Britain could not expect to achieve an "à la carte menu" in those negotiations, underlined the key role the European Parliament would have in any deal, including the possibility that it could vote to veto any agreement.
And in an apparent swipe at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's suggestion that the Brexit negotiations need not take two years, Mr Schulz said that "many tend to underestimate the complexity and delay" in forging new trading links.
During the speech and subsequent question and answer session, Mr Schulz also attacked the xenophobia that dominated the Leave campaign and subsequent race-hate crimes.
"It is absolutely clear – and it became for me every day clearer – the complexity of the whole exercise (of leaving the EU) is enormous," Mr Schulz said. "And what we saw was a government here in London expected a majority for staying in. And they were, it was my feeling, no way prepared for the Leave majority.
"Honestly, I leave London with a feeling that the government is undecided about how and when they should trigger Article 50. Also with the feeling that they perceive, more and more, the European side – the 27 institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg – can't wait too long."
Mr Schulz said that, while the vote to leave was a blow, it did offer the opportunity for the remaining EU states to pursue a course towards greater integration.
He added, "A G7 country, the second economy of the European single market, a permanent veto of the (UN) Security Council leaving the European Union is a disaster for us and for the United Kingdom."
Mr Schulz also blamed the unpleasant tactics of the Leave campaign for the fatal stabbing in the run-up to the referendum of Labour MP Jo Cox in her Batley and Spen constituency.
"Who would have anticipated precisely what came next – that the campaign here in your country would get so nasty that a member of the United Kingdom parliament, Jo Cox, would be brutally murdered in broad daylight for her political convictions?" he asked.
For more news and features about the EU referendum, see our Brexit section
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