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[STRASBOURG] Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the UK's vote to leave the European Union is "extremely unfortunate" for Britain and will create lasting chaos.
Mr Rutte, one of Prime Minister David Cameron's key allies in Europe, used an address to the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg to give his account of the June 23 referendum and its impact on the EU. The Netherlands held the bloc's rotating presidency for the first six months of the year, a term overshadowed by the UK's Brexit vote.
"That country now has collapsed - politically, economically, monetarily and constitutionally," Mr Rutte told lawmakers Tuesday. Directing his remarks to British members of the 28-nation EU assembly, he added: "You will have years of work ahead of you to get out of this mess."
Underscoring Mr Rutte's point, an index of business confidence among British executives plunged and pessimism soared as the Brexit turmoil stoked concerns that investment and the property market are poised to slump. Stocks fell globally as the pound dropped to its lowest level against the dollar in more than three decades.
Mr Rutte, who faces a challenge from the anti-EU Freedom Party in national elections next spring, has every reason to highlight the risks of a Brexit. But in an interview before the referendum, he referred to the shared heritage between Britain and the Netherlands and stressed that he didn't want to see the UK leave the EU, even although Amsterdam would "no doubt" benefit from the exodus of financial services from the City of London.
The surprise vote in favor of "Leave" created a "shock wave" that has pushed the EU into "uncharted territory," Mr Rutte said.
"It's a decision that creates a big problem both for the citizens of the UK and also for the other member states," he said. The EU needs to proceed "with all due caution to minimize the damage to the member states and to the British people themselves."
In Berlin, Volker Kauder, the head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's parliamentary group, slammed the leaders of the "Leave" campaign after they caused the biggest upset to the European order of the postwar period.
"The people who wanted the referendum at all costs and now see the chaos they've caused are flying the coop," Mr Kauder said. "That's not responsible politics."