BRUSSELS – With votes still being counted in Britain, EU leaders were already gearing up to move forward with Brexit plans.
Based on an exit poll, the leaders of Austria and Poland congratulated Conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his projected win, based on an exit poll, in Thursday's general election. France said the vote appears to have provided the “clarity” the EU needs.
EU leaders will meet the bloc’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Friday morning about next steps ahead in Britain's impending departure from the 28-nation bloc.
A strong win for Johnson’s Conservatives should allow him to fulfill his plan to take Britain out of the EU on Jan. 31. Britain would become the first country to leave in the history of the union, which was formed from the ashes of World War II to prevent new conflicts.
“It looks like (the U.K. vote) paves the way for an orderly Brexit,” Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein told reporters early Friday on the way out of a 10-hour EU summit in Brussels.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said “I wish the U.K. all the best, and congratulations to Boris Johnson.”
France’s European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin said France has for months “demanded clarity” from Britain about its Brexit plans. Based on the exit poll, she said, “This clarification appears to have taken place.”
The leaders of Germany and France wouldn’t comment until official vote results come in later Friday, and other European leaders were similarly cautious.
EU Council President Charles Michel promised that the leaders meeting Friday will send a “strong message” to the next British government and parliament about what the EU wants to do next on Brexit
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “we are ready to negotiate” to get out of the Brexit stalemate.
Britain’s domestic failure to agree on terms for Brexit has frustrated EU nations and distracted the bloc from solving other major problems, from climate change to migration pressures.
Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the EU was deeply upsetting for many people on the continent. Brexit will also have significant consequences for trade that will hit the economies of the remaining 27 EU members as well as Britain.