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Merkel calls for EU-UK negotiations in spirit of future partnership

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sees no need to rush the UK into a quick divorce after the referendum on leaving the EU. However, Berlin is reported to be bracing itself for "difficult" negotiations.

"Great Britain will remain a close partner," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday in Potsdam, outside Berlin.

"It shouldn't take ages" for Britain to deliver formal notification that it wants to leave the European Union, "but I would not fight now for a short time frame," she stated, seeking to temper pressure from Brussels, Paris and her own government to force Britain into negotiating a quick divorce from the EU.

Britain would remain a full-fledged member of the European Union until the negotiations were completed - with all the rights and responsibilities, she added.

"We will conduct the necessary negotiations in the spirit of our future partnership," Merkel said.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin

EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin

Steinmeier urgency

Earlier on Saturday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier showed a greater sense of urgency on negotiating Britain's divorce from the EU after the referendum decision.

"This process should get underway as soon as possible so that we are not left in limbo but rather can concentrate on the future of Europe," he said after hosting a meeting of his colleagues from the six founding members of the EU: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

At the same meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned: "We have to give a new sense to Europe, otherwise populism will fill the gap."

Early on Sunday, China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said Britain's vote to leave the EU has heightened uncertainty for markets.

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Soros: Brexit means 'disintegration' of EU

Billionaire investor George Soros called for a thorough reconstruction of the EU in order to save the bloc - even though he warned that the UK's vote makes the "disintegration of the EU practically irreversible."

"After Brexit, all of us who believe in the values and principles that the EU was designed to uphold must band together to save it by thoroughly reconstructing it," he wrote in a commentary on the website Project Syndicate. Soros made huge profits in 1992 by betting against the British pound as it crashed below the preset level.

He warned that a similar situation may happen again in the event of a vote to leave the EU, predicting the pound would drop by at least 15 percent. On Friday, sterling fell around 10 percent, hitting a 31-year low.

"The financial markets worldwide are likely to remain in turmoil as the long, complicated process of political and economic divorce from the EU is negotiated," he wrote.

In his commentary, Soros also warned that the economic consequences of the vote would be comparable to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

Handelsblatt: Not too many concessions

The newspaper "Handelsblatt" quoted an internal document from the Finance Ministry in Berlin regarding Germany's strategy in the case of a Brexit. Britain would be offered "constructive negotiations," the paper wrote, underlining that Schäuble's ministry was expecting a "difficult" divorce.

According to the document, the objective could be an association agreement between the EU and the UK, spelling out trading rules and other regulations. Other reports suggested any such agreement would not cover financial services.

Berlin would avoid making too many concessions: Britain should not automatically have access to the EU's internal market, "Handelsblatt" wrote. If the UK benefitted from the advantages of this market without being an EU member, this could give the wrong incentives to other EU countries who wish to follow Britain's example.

Other countries that might want to amend their deals with the EU include France, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Hungary.

On Saturday, Slovakia's far right People's Party launched a petition for a referendum on the country's future in the EU.

rs/bk (Reuters, AFP, handelsblatt.com)

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