Britain relinquishes rotating European Union presidency in 2017

Britain will no longer take on the rotating EU presidency as planned next year, relinquishing the role in the wake of the Brexit vote, Prime Minister Theresa May's office.

AFP| Last Updated: Jul 20, 2016, 17:59 PM IST

London: Britain will no longer take on the rotating EU presidency as planned next year, relinquishing the role in the wake of the Brexit vote, Prime Minister Theresa May's office said on Wednesday.

May informed European Council president Donald Tusk of her decision in a phone call on Tuesday evening, their first since she took over from David Cameron last week.

"The prime minister suggested that the UK should relinquish the rotating Presidency of the Council, currently scheduled for the second half of 2017, noting that we would be prioritising the negotiations to leave the European Union," a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

"Donald Tusk welcomed the prime minister's swift decision on this issue which would allow the council to put alternative arrangements in place."

The presidency of the Council -- the gathering of national ministers from the EU's 28 member states -- rotates among members every six months.

EU ambassadors will meet later on Wednesday to decide who will replace Britain.

Slovakia currently has the presidency, until December 31, followed by Malta. Britain was due to take it from July 1 until December 31, 2017.

May repeated to Tusk that she wanted to approach negotiations on extricating Britain from its 43-year-old members of the bloc "in a constructive and pragmatic spirit" but will need time to prepare, the spokeswoman said.

She added: "Donald Tusk reassured the prime minister that he will help to make this process happen as smoothly as possible.

"They concluded by looking forward to a strong working relationship and agreed that they should meet soon in Brussels or London."