Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Dutch finance minister and head of the group of euro-area finance ministers, center, shakes hands with Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, during a Eurogroup meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels, Belgium. (Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg)

EU Seeks Commitment to Strengthen European Ties After Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Euro-area finance ministers signaled that the European Union would become more unified as it looks for fresh ways forward in the wake of a planned U.K. exit from the bloc.

“I sense a strong commitment politically to move forward together,” Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is leading talks in the Slovak capital Bratislava, said before the meeting got underway on Friday. “To become stronger together -- and for the Brexit process it’s really up to the British to make up their minds in terms of when to start and how to get it on the road.”

While the U.K. isn’t in the 19-nation euro area, governments have warned of the effect on the currency area of the British vote to leave the wider EU. Until Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 to start formal exit negotiations, finance ministers are unable to start the lengthy and complex task of working out the ramifications in areas such as banker bonus legislation, tax, the single market and the EU budget.

“I think in the end it will be the British economy that is damaged the most, which I don’t hope, but that is my concern,” Dijsselbloem said.

Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling called in an interview on Thursday for EU finance ministers to schedule an extra meeting to prepare for the U.K.’s departure from the bloc, so the group can begin evaluating Brexit implications on economic and financial issues.

“The U.K’s departure from the EU will have an impact on the manner in which Europe works in practice and the extent of the U.K.’s participation in the European internal market,” Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said in an interview after the meeting. “But I also see all this as an opportunity by EU member states with respect to political and economic integration.”