“In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision but respect it.”

The historic decision by Britons to leave European Union, by a margin of 52% to 48%,  has sent shockwaves across Europe and sparked turmoil on global markets.

Leaders of countries within the European Union have spoken of their shock and devastation at the momentous Brexit decision.

In a joint statement, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Mark Rutte, holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, discussed the outcome of the United Kingdom referendum and said:

“In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision but respect it.”

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Union Council, says that leaders will meet without Britain at a summit next week. “We are determined to keep our unity as 27 … I will propose that we start a period of wider reflection on the future of our union,” he said, adding: “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

France

French President Francois Hollande said the outcome was a “sad choice” which puts the EU in difficulty, adding that he will do everything to secure “deep change” to the Union.

Hollande held an emergency ministerial meeting on Friday morning to discuss the impact the Brexit vote from the UK on Thursday. He added that the vote was “a painful choice that he already regrets”, and that France would continue to work with the UK, which he called a “great ally”,

“The British vote poses a grave test for Europe, which must show solidity and strength in its response to the economic and financial risks,” Hollande said.

The far right National Front called for a referendum on French membership of the EU with Marine Le Pen, the populist party’s leader, praising the British decision, adding: “freedom has won”.

Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had “great regret” at the decision, but added the EU is “strong enough” to “find the right answers” following the vote.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry described a “sad day for Europe”, adding that the news from Britain was “very sobering:”

Manfred Weber, a senior German conservative MEP and close ally of Angela Merkel, warned that Britain will receive “no special treatment” and must leave the EU within two years.

“We respect and regret the decision of the British voters. It causes major damage to both sides. This was a British vote, not a European vote. Co-operation within Europe is a question of self-assertion of the continent.

“We want a better and smarter Europe. We have to convince the people and bring Europe back to them. Exit negotiations should be concluded within two years at max. There cannot be any special treatment. Leave means leave.”

Sweden

Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, called the result “beyond comprehension” and predicted long-term turmoil as a result. He noted that the Zimbabwean dollar was gaining on sterling.

Annie Lööv, the leader of Sweden’s Centre Party, called the vote “a day of mourning. A nightmare”.

Ireland

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has very significant implications for Ireland, the Irish government said ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday. Britain is by far the largest trading partner for Ireland and any loss of access to the UK market would be devastating for the country’s economy.

This is not the outcome the Republic of Ireland wanted. The Irish government, which remained neutral in the Scottish independence referendum, actively encouraged Irish citizens in the UK to vote to remain in the EU.

Denmark

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said that he was disappointed in the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU.

“We must respect the choice that a majority of the British people have made. At the same time, I won’t hide the fact that I think it is a very sad result for Europe and for Denmark,” Danish Prime Minister said.

Rasmussen said that he hoped the UK would still choose some sort of “tight relationship” with the EU but that Denmark’s relationship with the union would not be affected by Brexit.

Poland

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former Prime Minister of Poland, says that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union makes it evident that the bloc needs a new treaty that would regulate its operations better. “The conclusion is: we need a new European treaty,” Kaczynski said.

Poland’s foreign minister said the British vote “is bad news for Europe and bad news for Poland.” Britain leaving the EU will cast a huge cloud of uncertainty over the status of hundreds of thousands of Poles working in the UK.

Norway

Brexit “should be a warning for the leaders of the EU and national leaders of the European countries, that giving young people hope for the future by ensuring job creation is among the most important things we do,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

“The British voters have spoken and that’s the way it is,” said Erna Solberg. “I think this will create a more introverted Europe, which will be concerned with finding solutions to organisational problems, instead of providing solutions to the issues voters really want addressed.

Compiled by Sana Jamal