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EU finance chiefs urge incoming UK PM to trigger Brexit
[BRUSSELS] European finance chiefs on Tuesday urged Britain's prime minister in waiting Theresa May on Tuesday to accelerate the country's timetable for Brexit, warning a delay could affect business confidence.
Meanwhile Jean-Claude Juncker's spokesman insisted that the European commission chief and former Luxembourg PM "can cope" with negotiations with May, who has been touted in London as a "bloody difficult woman."
In the latest moves to put pressure on Britain, European Commission economy chief Pierre Moscovici said Ms May should trigger her country's divorce from the EU as soon as possible after she takes office on Wednesday.
"The Conservative party went fast. (Prime Minister) David Cameron was supposed to be replaced in September, we are only July, so why lose those two months?" asked Mr Moscovici, who is France's representative in the Commission.
"It's possible that the process of the discussion with the European Union also accelerates. That's what I think a lot of people expect and hope and call for," he told reporters as he entered talks with the EU's finance ministers.
"It is important the political process can be accelerated in the UK so uncertainty can be lifted," Mr Moscovici added.
Mr Moscovici a day earlier warned that the negative effects of Brexit could knock growth significantly lower in Britain, as well as the EU and eurozone.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin also urged May to hurry up following Britain's June 23 vote to leave the EU and said Paris would be "demanding".
"One of Europe's problems is the slow process of this decision. They must be very concrete and advance more quickly - that would be the best answer to Brexit," Mr Sapin said.
"Against the British, it could be a rough confrontation. We French will be one of the most demanding countries," he said, especially regarding the City of London's financial district's ability to trade in euros.
Mr Sapin hit out at Britain's "total lack of preparation" for Brexit and "lack of understanding of the mechanisms".
Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, said markets were worried about "uncertainty".
"So I would say it is in the UK's interest to get clarity as soon as possible on its future relations (with the EU)," he added.
Their comments came hours after German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged May to "quickly" clarify what kind of future relationship it wants with the EU.
Ms Merkel met in Berlin with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who also said he "would not favour... a prolonged period" for Britain to trigger Article 50 - the treaty procedure to exit the Union.
EU leaders have refused to negotiate on trade and other ties after Brexit until Britain formally triggers Article 50 but May says she will not do this until next year at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Mr Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas joked that the Commission chief would not quail at being opposite Ms May at the Brexit negotiating table.
Mr Schinas referred indirectly to the phrase "a bloody difficult woman," used last week by senior British conservative Kenneth Clarke to describe Ms May. The incoming prime minister reportedly told British MPs, "The next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker."
"The famous sentence you attribute to the new British prime minister was sort of humorous," said Mr Schinas.
"So I will answer in the same vein - I'm sure Jean-Claude Juncker can cope."
For more coverage of the EU referendum, visit bt.sg/BrexiT