All EU leaders wanted the UK to stay in the bloc and a Leave vote has been met with dismay across the Channel.
Hastily-convened meetings are now taking place in Brussels and across foreign capitals on how to deal with the fallout of the UK’s decision with an emergency summit likely next week.
European Council President Donald Tusk has called for calm, saying the vote is historic but
“not a moment for hysterical reactions”
appealing for unity among the EU’s 27 other members.
What will happen next is difficult to predict. A long, hard road of negotiations between the UK and EU beckons although it is unclear when this process – likely to take years – will begin.
EU leaders are worried about the prospect of “contagion”, with the UK’s decision already fuelling demands from populist, anti-EU parties in other countries, including France and the Netherlands – for referendums of their own on EU membership.
Europe’s leaders will want a joint declaration ofa determination to continue and there will be demands for the UK to set out where it stands on key issues such as free movement, to reassure the 2.9 million EU citizens living in the UK that they will not be deported.