The Latest: Hollande says Brexit won’t affect enlargement

LONDON – The Latest following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (all times local):

7:10 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says the British vote to leave the European Union won’t threaten eventual enlargement of the bloc.

Hollande, speaking after a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders from Balkan states aspiring to EU membership, acknowledged uncertainty in the Balkan region in particular around their EU membership bids.

“The British decision does not in any way put into question commitments made toward countries in the Balkan region. They will be respected,” he said in Paris.

Balkan integration into the EU is considered key for stability of the volatile region. The EU’s current troubles are emboldening pro-Russian groups in Serbia who favour closer ties with Russia instead of the West.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was disappointed by an EU decision last week to delay further membership talks. Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania, all at different stages in trying to join the EU, say the British exit vote will not diminish their membership efforts.


4:35 p.m.

Britain’s immigration minister says he can’t guarantee that European Union citizens who live in the U.K. will be able to stay after the country leaves the bloc.

James Brokenshire has told the House of Commons that “EU nationals continue to be welcome here” and “their right to enter, work, study and live in the U.K. remains unchanged” since the vote last week to leave the bloc.

But he said a guarantee that they would be allowed to remain after Britain negotiates its EU exit “would be unwise without a parallel assurance” from other EU countries that British citizens can continue to live there.

A final split from the EU is likely several years away. Opposition politicians are demanding the government ease the uncertainty of some 3 million EU citizens by guaranteeing they can stay.

Labour legislator Gisela Stuart said Monday that it was wrong to make them “bargaining chips” in negotiations.


1:30 p.m.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister is describing Nigel Farage’s decision to quit as leader of the U.K. Independence Party as “very cowardly.”

Farage’s announcement Monday made him the third major British political figure to say he is stepping aside rather than taking ownership of the country’s turbulent political future.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn was quoted Monday as telling German daily Tagesspiegel: “All of a sudden, politicians like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are withdrawing back into their snail shells.”

Asselborn added: “I hope this can be a lesson against falling for political opportunists like the (anti-migration) AfD in Germany or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.”


1:10 p.m.

Police say a memorial to former Labour Party leader Michael Foot has been defaced with far-right graffiti.

Rob Souness of Devon and Cornwall Police says the force is investigating the “disgusting act of vandalism” to the stone memorial in Foot’s home town of Plymouth, southwest England. Foot, who died in 2010, led the left-of-centre Labour Party between 1980 and 1983.

The monument was defaced with swastikas and the initials of the British National Party and English Defence League, both far-right groups.

Police have reported an increase in racially motivated hate crimes since Britain voted to leave the European Union in a June 23 referendum.

The current member of Parliament for Plymouth, Conservative Johnny Mercer tweeted: “Tragic. Unacceptable. Michael Foot was a proud son of Plymouth. This is not us, not Plymouth.”


11:45 a.m.

British Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has launched her bid to lead the Conservative Party, pitching herself as a passionately pro-“leave” candidate who can both unite a divided Britain and strike a good deal with the European Union.

Leadsom is one of the least-known among the five candidates to replace Prime Minister David Cameron, but she gained attention as one of the strongest voices for a vote to leave the EU in the referendum campaign.

She’s targeting her pitch at Conservatives who think the next prime minister must be someone from the winning side of the referendum. The front-runner, Home Secretary Theresa May, was on the losing “remain” side.

Leadsom, who went into politics after a career in financial services, says she would keep the negotiations on an exit deal with the 27 other EU countries as short as possible, because “neither we nor our European friends need prolonged uncertainty.”

And, unlike May, she says EU citizens living in Britain would be guaranteed the right to stay. She says “we must give them certainty. There is no way they will be bargaining chips in our negotiations.”


11:35 a.m.

A top law firm may institute a legal challenge to make certain that Britain’s Parliament votes on whether or not the U.K. should leave the European Union.

The law firm Mishcon de Reya argues that the referendum approving an exit from the EU was not legally binding.

The firm, acting on behalf of a group of anonymous clients, says that it is up to Parliament to have their say before the prime minister invokes Article 50, triggering the start of negotiations for a U.K. departure from the bloc.

While outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that it will be up to the next prime minister to enact Article 50, the law firm is adamant that Parliament must have its say first. It says that it would go to court without government assurances.


11:20 a.m.

British companies’ pension liabilities have jumped to a record high in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union.

Consultancy Mercer said Monday that a survey of the 350 biggest listed U.K. companies shows their liabilities in defined benefit pension schemes jumped to 813 billion pounds ($1.08 trillion) by the end of June from 761 billion pounds a month earlier.

The worsening in the companies’ pension accounts is due to the fact that returns on investments like bonds have dropped since the vote. That is due to expectations that the economy will weaken and that the Bank of England will cut its benchmark rate further toward zero this summer.

While low rates can help the economy by making borrowing cheaper, they weigh on the growth of savings and pension funds. Low returns on savings and pension investments are a problem across Europe, where central banks have slashed rates to help the economy.


10:20 a.m.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage says he is resigning as the head of the party, arguing his political ambition to have Britain leave the European Union has now been achieved.

It is the second time Farage resigns as the leader of the party, but he says this time it is definite.

Farage said Monday he will retain his seat in the European Parliament to see out the negotiations for Britain’s exit from the EU following the country’s June 23 vote to leave the bloc.


9:45 a.m.

Britain’s Treasury chief plans to cut U.K. corporation tax to less than 15 per cent to encourage companies to invest and ease business concerns about the country’s vote to leave the European Union.

Treasury chief George Osborne says the cut is meant to underscore that Britain is “still open for business,” despite the referendum results. A cut of about 5 percentage points brings Britain in line with Ireland’s 12.5 per cent rate.

Osborne told the Financial Times it was time to “make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt.” He is urging the Bank of England to use its powers to avoid “a contraction of credit in the economy.”

Some businesses based in London are considering leaving for other cities like Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris to benefit from the large EU common market.