The Latest: Russian minister closely watching after EU vote


BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on British vote to leave the European Union (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says his country is “very much concerned” with the consequences of the British referendum vote to leave the European Union.

“We believe that this referendum is an internal affair of the U.K.,” Lavrov told reporters following a meeting in Paris with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault.

“But we’re closely monitoring the situation because we’re very much concerned with the impacts it might have on the relationship between Russia and the EU, Russia and the U.K.,” Lavrov added.

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5 p.m.

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations says his country’s seat on the Security Council has become even more important after the British referendum to leave the European Union.

Matthew Rycroft told reporters Wednesday that following the country’s pending exit from the EU, its seat on the council has become an “even larger proportion of our total world outlook.” He says Britain will continue to play an “active and activist role” on the international scene.

Rycroft also said Britain will continue to be a European power and will always be “open for business.”

Britain is one of five permanent members who have veto power on the 15-member Security Council.

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4:55 p.m.

Britain’s prime minister is promising more money for security to fight a surge in hate crimes that have followed the campaign to have Britain leave the European Union.

David Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday it’s right for “everyone on all sides of the referendum debate” to utterly condemn the attacks. The unusually heated campaign centered in part on immigration and included the use of a poster that showed hundreds of non-white migrants making their way across Europe alongside the words, “BREAKING POINT.”

The National Police Chiefs Council says hate crime reports have soared by 57 percent following the vote.

Eastern Europeans, Muslims, Americans and Germans are among those to have reported acts of harassment. Victims describe the rise of an angry fringe swaggering in triumph over the vote to leave.

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4:25 p.m.

Hungary’s prime minister says it is too soon to make personnel changes among European Union leaders and officials because of Britain’s decision to leave the 28-member bloc.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Wednesday in Brussels that “time, analysis, thought and proposals are needed” before such changes are discussed.

Orban said “it would cheap and not at all gallant in these circumstances to suddenly attack any leader of the Commission or any EU institution.”

Orban, whose has frequently clashed with Brussels over issues ranging from state control over media to taxation and the independence of the judicial system, also urged Hungarians to take part in a referendum expected by October seeking political support for the government’s stance against EU immigration policies.

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3:40 p.m.

Former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski says he believes that Russian President Putin was “the happiest man in Europe” following the news that Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Sikorski, a longtime critic of Russia, said Britain’s departure from the 28-member bloc “creates opportunities for Russia to play us off against one another.”

He said that depending on how the break-up with Europe happens, he believes that the City of London, one of the world’s main financial centers, could “compensate for lost business of, say, trading of the euro bonds, by making London even safer for dirty money from around the world,” adding that “the Russians might welcome that.”

Sikorski, now a senior fellow at Harvard University, spoke at a democracy debate alongside former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

He also said he believes Britain’s importance to the United States will diminish after leaving the EU. He said: “Your power to affect regulation that affects Google or Microsoft, or anybody else, is gone, and therefore your usefulness to the United States is less.”

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3:25 p.m.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says the EU should provide young Britons with provisions to continue to feel “part of the great European family” despite Britain’s vote to leave.

After a special EU summit in Brussels, Renzi said those provisions could include special “ad hoc” citizenship measures that, for example, would enable them to study in EU universities.

He said EU leaders agreed that Europe cannot allow negotiations on the British exit to drag on forever and cannot “pretend like nothing happened.”

He acknowledged, “There is a significant part of public opinion and Europe’s ruling political class that has understood that we have to strongly relaunch the Europe that we believe in, the one that wants to talk about values, that wants to talk about more than just procedures and rules.”

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3:05 p.m.

A contingent of French politicians has seized upon the British decision to exit the EU as a chance to unload on Britain the thousands of migrants who want to get there but are stuck in northern France.

The Touquet accords, signed in 2003 between France and Britain, effectively moved Britain’s border to northern France. Undoing them would return British police, customs officials and sniffer dogs to their home across the English Channel — and open the door to migrants camped in Calais and other areas along the French coast.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was meeting Wednesday with Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart and the north region’s president, Xavier Bertrand, both of whom want the agreement scuttled.

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2:50 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says European Union leaders don’t want to embark on cumbersome changes of the bloc’s treaties as they seek to ensure its future after Britain’s vote to leave.

Merkel said after a meeting of EU countries without Britain that the lesson from its departure isn’t necessarily either deeper integration or returning more powers to national governments. She said Wednesday: “this is not about more or less Europe as a principle, but about achieving results better.”

She said that combating youth unemployment, for example, could involve both scrapping EU directives and deepening European cooperation.

Merkel says Europe faces “a very serious situation” with Britain wanting to leave but she added: “We think that we 27 can deal with this situation.”

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2:25 p.m.

European Union leaders say they are determined to stay united at 27 in the wake of the British referendum vote to leave the bloc.

After a summit without British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, they warned the U.K. that if it wanted to continue to enjoy the seamless EU single market after its departure it would also have to accept that EU citizens can continue to enter Britain.

Tusk said the British exit left the others “absolutely determined to remain united.”

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2 p.m.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is concerned that a European Union that will now have to struggle with a British departure from the bloc will become “much more inward-looking and less engaged with the world.”

She says that would leave the EU less capable of tackling challenges including a resurgent Russia and instability in the Middle East.

Rice, who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, spoke on Wednesday in Warsaw at a debate on democracy alongside the former Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski.

She said she believes a union without Britain will result in an EU that looks less to Washington in its foreign policy.

She said, “I see NATO now as unfortunately the only truly Atlanticist institution, but I don’t think it will have an effect on NATO. Where it could have an effect is on Europe’s ability to focus on some of the issues that are so central to American foreign policy.”

As an example of issues where the U.S. sees Europe as its partner are the “finishing the democratic project” in Central Europe, “the challenges of Moscow and the Kremlin,” and instability in the Middle East.

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1:40 p.m.

The weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Britain’s House of Commons has taken on a surreal tone, with a premier who is departing — David Cameron — questioned by an opposition leader whose own lawmakers are trying to force him out.

The normally raucous session unfolded in unusual quiet, as Labour Party backbenchers declined to cheer their leader Jeremy Corbyn and sat in stony silence.

More than 170 of the 229 Labour lawmakers have backed a motion of no-confidence in Corbyn, whom they accuse of failing to make a strong case for Britain to remain in the European Union. But Corbyn is refusing to step down.

Cameron, who announced his own resignation after failing to convince voters to stay in the EU, made a sharp attack on Corbyn, saying it was not in the national interest for him to keep his job and urging: “For heaven’s sake, man, go!”

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1:35 p.m.

Romania’s president says British Prime Minister David Cameron has reassured him about the future of Romanians living in Britain after it voted to leave the European Union.

President Klaus Iohannis, in Brussels for a meeting of EU leaders, said Wednesday he had “received assurances from Premier Cameron in the name of Great Britain … that Romanians will be able to remain, and will be able to work, and he apologized for incidents that happened there.”

There are officially about 150,000 Romanians living in Britain, but there are believed to be twice that number. They moved to Britain after Romania joined the EU in 2007.

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1:20 p.m.

Ratings agency Fitch expects investment in Britain to fall by 5 percent next year and for it to be 15 percent lower in 2018 than previously forecast due to uncertainty over the European Union exit.

Some businesses are putting investments on hold and Fitch said “there is little doubt that the U.K. referendum vote in favor of leaving the EU will take a significant toll on the economy.”

It says there are concerns about what Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU will be, what kind of regulations it will have and also whether the country faces an renewed push for independence by Scotland.

In a report issued Wednesday, Fitch also slashed its economic growth forecasts by 1 percentage point to 1 percent in both 2017 and 2018.

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12:55 p.m.

Poland’s deputy foreign minister says Poland will never seek to limit the European Union’s common market or the free movement of its people when it pushes for a new treaty to mend the EU after Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

Still, Konrad Szymanski says Wednesday that Poland will keep up the pressure on the need for deep EU reforms “if we want to avoid further decomposition.” He spoke in Brussels during a summit on EU’s prospects without Britain, attended by EU minus British leaders.

He says the common market is the “only thing that really works well in the European Union.”

Hundreds of thousands of Poles have taken advantage of that free movement to go live and work in Britain, sparking resentment among some British people.

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12:05 p.m.

Vodafone, one of Britain’s biggest companies, will consider moving its group headquarters depending on the outcome of the U.K.’s negotiations to leave the European Union.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that EU membership had been an important factor in its growth, and that free movement of people, goods and capital were integral to any pan-European business. It was unclear, though, how “many of these positive attributes” would be in place once the process of an EU exit is completed.

The company, which has 13,500 employees in the U.K. says “it is therefore not yet possible to draw any firm conclusions regarding the long-term location for the headquarters of the group.”

Vodafone says “a large majority” of its 462 million customers live outside of the U.K.

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11:15 a.m.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose countrymen and women voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union, traveled to Brussels to confer with EU leaders. She was received Wednesday morning by Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament.

“We regularly meet with regional leaders,” said John Schranz, Schulz’s spokesman. “Of course, the times are extraordinarily.”

On Tuesday, European Parliament members loudly applauded a Scottish member who begged them not to let the pro-EU population of Scotland down.

Sturgeon was expected to meet later Wednesday with the leader of the EU executive, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

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11:05 a.m.

Nominations are opening in the contest to replace Prime Minister David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party.

The first official contender is Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb. Business Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that he and Crabb are running for leader and deputy as part of what has been dubbed a blue-collar ticket.

Crabb and Javid both come from working-class backgrounds that contrast with upper-crust front-runner Boris Johnson.

Former London Mayor Johnson and Home Secretary Theresa May are also expected to run.

Cameron announced his resignation after voters decided last week that Britain should leave the European Union.

After nominations close Thursday, Conservative lawmakers will whittle the nominees down to two. They will be put to a vote of all party members, with the result expected in early September.

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9:30 a.m.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite says Europe must wake up and start listening to its citizens on issues like immigration and economic growth following the U.K.’s unprecedented vote to leave the European Union.

Grybauskaite said Wednesday as she arrived for a summit with EU counterparts minus Britain that “we all need to wake up and smell the coffee.”

She told reporters in Brussels that “Britain knows what to do after what they did. Today is about us, what we are going to do about our unity and about preparations for the transitional period, for British withdrawal.”

She underlined that “we need to listen to people.”

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9:20 a.m.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says Europeans are disenchanted with the EU project as the bloc’s leaders meet to pick up the pieces after the U.K. vote to leave.

“There is a perception of technocracy,” Michel told reporters Wednesday as EU leaders gathered without Britain to chart the way forward as 27 member states after the U.K. formally leaves.

He said “we have to show that Europe brings a real added value that can be felt by our fellow citizens.”

His counterpart from neighboring Luxembourg said it was important to show unity at the meeting.

Bettel said that “with a disunited United Kingdom we need a united Europe more than ever.”

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8:00 a.m.

EU leaders are meeting without Britain for the first time to rethink their union and keep it from disintegrating after Britain’s unprecedented vote to leave.

Divisions between the EU founders and newer countries in the east threaten to complicate any bold new plans at Wednesday’s meeting.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says: “It’s not only the British voters who have doubts about European cooperation. There is skepticism in many other EU countries.”

Other EU countries are now facing calls, especially from the far right, for referendums on quitting the bloc. The 27 remaining EU members are also divided over how to deal with migration, which was a major issue in Britain’s vote last week.

British Prime Minister David Cameron left Brussels Tuesday night without any clear divorce plan.

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