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EU Leaders To Meet At Emergency Summit To Discuss 'Brexit' Next Steps

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Many have found that Britain's vote to leave the European Union is hard to accept. Two million people there have signed an online petition for a Brexit re-vote (ph). But across the English Channel on the continent, EU leaders are already meeting to discuss divorce proceedings. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The Gare du Nord station in Paris is where the Eurostar train from London pulls in several times a day. Until now, British citizens could travel, work and live freely across the EU and vice versa. Now, the status of millions of Brits living abroad and EU citizens in Britain is just one of many thorny issues that have to be worked out. Former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says the separation must also change the EU.

ALAIN JUPPE: (Through interpreter) This is a historic shock for Great Britain but for us too. And I think the biggest mistake the EU could make would be to continue on just like before. We have to write a new chapter in the history of Europe.

BEARDSLEY: How to sever ties with Britain and rebuild a different Europe will be on the menu this week as EU leaders meet at an emergency summit in Brussels. Foreign ministers from the six founding EU nations - France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg - gathered yesterday in Berlin. Several stressed the urgency to break up fast and not stay in an extended state of limbo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front Party, was just one of several far-right populist leaders to call for a referendums for their countries since Friday. There is fear that Brexit has opened a Pandora's box. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday she didn't think the main point of negotiations should be trying to keep other nations from leaving. She also said there was no reason to go fast or to be harsh with Britain.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: French President Francois Hollande said what would happen next was a question the whole planet was pondering. Sylvie Goulard is a member of the European Parliament. She says the treaty that governs quitting the EU is very vague.

SYLVIE GOULARD: Of course, there is no precedent, so it's quite difficult to know exactly how we implement it.

BEARDSLEY: Britain must begin the process by giving formal notification, and Prime Minister David Cameron has already said he will leave that to his successor in October. Goulard says EU leaders should use this sad occasion of Brexit to positively transform the bloc. She says to confront the world's real threats, from Chinese competition to ISIS, European nations must come together in a more powerful European Union.

GOULARD: Look at the question of the borders. We had terrorist attacks. People were coming from Belgium, and we were not capable of working with the Belgian secret services. We need more cooperation. It's not with less information coming from other member states that we will fight against terrorism.

BEARDSLEY: Britain is the EU's second largest economy and it trades freely within the world's largest common market. Now, the U.K. will likely have to renegotiate trade deals with every EU country.

(CROSSTALK)

BEARDSLEY: This giant antiques market on the outskirts of Paris draws many British customers, but vendors here like Georges Bac say they don't think Brexit will be the catastrophe that many are predicting.

GEORGES BAC: I don't know. This is going to be an interesting moment. But it might be also - and as people say - an opportunity for Europe to rethink the way it functions.

BEARDSLEY: Tomorrow in Berlin, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy will coordinate their strategy to deal with Brexit. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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