The British people have spoken. They were asked to take a position on the key question of the UK's future in a referendum that was initiated by a few. And they voted to leave the European Union. Our response has been clear – regret, respect and resolve. The first two 'Rs' (regret and respect) are our political statement, political sentiment. And the third 'R' (the resolve) - which is the most important one - is our political action.
The legal procedure for leaving the EU has been set in the Treaty. The Commission stands ready to fully exercise its negotiating role and duty. But we should clearly demonstrate the way we see the political procedure for this divorce. For me, out is out, and out starts now. Our respect of the British people's decision is to be met with the same respect of our duty to act in the best interest of the Union of 27 Member States. It is equally valid now in invoking Article 50 of the Treaty, as well as later, throughout the negotiation procedure on leaving the union. Any delay would prolong uncertainties that feed financial, economic and political turmoil to the detriment of the UK and the EU. It is not realistic and it is not right to give some more time to the futile expectations of undoing the referendum. The Union of 27 must not be taken hostage by UK internal political positioning. The very call for a referendum was quite enough. Our message to the UK current leaders should be – let us do our job. Let us act as of now. I am fully aware of the possibility that the notification might not arrive at Brussels any time soon. In spite of that and because of that we have to state our political position in favour of an early notice, not necessarily immediately, but as soon as possible.
I come to a more important, more substantial point than the timing of divorce negotiations. And this is the direction and the content of our action in upholding a strong and functioning Union of 27. The European Union is faced with a crisis that is more existential than the Greece and migration crises taken together. We are to undergo an unplanned, unique stress-test. At the same time, it gives us an equally unique opportunity to continue, without often disruptive internal forces, to strengthen bonds that keep together 27 and hopefully more members in the not so distant future. This Commission should be ready and able to spearhead the political and economic concept - some would call it "make or break" reforms - that would enable the European Union to come out of this whole divorce as a better, more transparent, more democratic, more efficient, more interconnected and more responsible Union.
The key question now is what kind of action would translate and fortify, in the best and most effective way, the vision and values of our Union into the real life of our citizens. In my view, the outcome of the UK referendum should not lead us to new institutional reforms, a new Convention, new Treaty renegotiations, new calls for more Europe or a federal Europe. We have to be smarter than giving extreme opposite-end answers to populists' quasi-arguments. We can find our best response forging in "better Europe" reforms. Better Europe is not a mantra of today. It has been already there in the ten guiding political priorities of the Juncker Commission. When fully and credibly implemented, they would address all of the political, economic, social and security needs and expectations for a better Europe and a better balance between subsidiarity and solidarity, and between intergovernmental and community Europe. It is high time now to demonstrate our common resolve in embarking all of the EU institutions onto the concerted action of making the Commission's priorities the EU's priorities. In parallel, we have to intensify citizens' and inter-institutional dialogue in order to clearly demonstrate why the priorities matter and what real reform substance they bring to the European project. This is the way of making a better Europe – not in its form, but in its content.