UK's most senior EU official quits after Brexit vote

Jonathan Hill stands down following referendum result

Jonathan Hill

Jonathan Hill | Photo: PA Images

Britain's European commissioner in Brussels has resigned in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU.

Jonathan Hill, the country's most senior EU official, was nominated to the position in 2014 by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The leaders of the main political groups in the European Parliament yesterday approved a draft motion calling on him to be stripped of his duties “with immediate effect" following the referendum result, according to a document seen by Reuters. 

Mr Hill said in a statement that he was disappointed with the outcome of the poll and felt it would not be right to carry on "as though nothing had happened".

"I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was sceptical about Europe," he said.

"I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy.

"But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible."

Irish MEP Brian Hayes has said that quick action must be taken to reassign Mr Hill's role.

“We have to be realistic, Prime Minister Cameron now has no mandate to propose a new Commissioner and the European Parliament is unlikely to approve such an appointment. Financial services reform cannot be the latest casualty of the Brexit vote. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker must reassign responsibility for financial services and Capital Markets Union among his college of Commissioners immediately.”

The Prime Minister, who announced his resignation yesterday in an emotional speech in Downing Street, has said he will leave it to his successor to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The article begins the two-year process of negotiating a new trade relationship with the UK's former partners.

But European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and other EU chiefs have urged Britain to start negotiations to quit the bloc "as soon as possible".

Call for swift exit

"Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty," Mr Juncker said in a joint statement issued with EU President Donald Tusk, EU Parliament leader Martin Schulz and Dutch premier Mark Rutte.

"We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be."

The statement added: "We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way.

"We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union."

It added that Britain remained bound by EU law "until it is no longer a member".

Mr Schulz also warned that the EU would not be held "hostage" while the Tory party squabbled over its next leader.

He insisted that uncertainty was "the opposite of what we need", adding that  it was difficult to accept "a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party".