Leaders from the European Union’s 27 member states did not waste time getting down to the business of preparing for Brexit just hours after Boris Johnson’s landslide victory. And with it, the economic bloc seemed to be saying, “Sorry you are going, but now that you’ve decided, hurry up and get out.”
On Friday morning in Brussels, Charles Michel, the European Council president, said he anticipated that Johnson would make good on his promise to use his majority to pass the exit deal they forged that will pave the way for a full Brexit on Jan. 31, 2020–just 49 days away. And he said he hoped that now that Johnson has a firm majority government, they could forge a deal that included a mutually beneficial economic pact going forward.
“We expect as soon as possible a vote by the British Parliament on the withdrawal agreement,” Michel told reporters. “It is important to have the clarity as soon as possible. We are ready. The EU will negotiate to ensure to have a close cooperation in the future with the U.K.”
The mood across the rest of the euro zone was one of reluctant acceptance mixed with a healthy dose of relief. Since the Brexit referendum victory in 2016, the EU has been an unwilling partner to a party that didn’t seem to want to leave, even as it was walking away. Much of the delay has cost European businesses millions and sewn uncertainty across the bloc.
In Italy, several newspapers waxed nostalgic about the end of the “old world” and the fear of the unknown. Hard questions about what it means for the thousands of Italians who have left the country for higher paying jobs in the U.K. remains a top priority.
In France, the focus was instead on the British population who have relocated there and what it means for them, implying that any deal needed to be reciprocal or both populations would surely suffer.
Germany’s Die Welt focused on the financial fallout, asking “Which Boris Johnson is Europe going to get?” referring to the hardliner who promised a swift Brexit on the campaign trail or the one who has been far more light-footed when he is in Brussels.
But it was Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte who said what everyone is thinking, urging the U.K. to now hurry up, telling reporters “on the British side they can speed up the process.”
Now that the fate seems certain that Brexit will happen, everyone is just ready to get on with it.