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PM Sipilä: “No EU referendum during this government’s term”

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä met on Monday with the Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee that is responsible for EU matters. He said Finland must now wait for Britain to first invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to withdraw from the union. In response to an outlier Finns Party member’s call for a similar referendum, he emphatically said there was no hope for such a vote during his term as premier.  

Juha Sipilä.
Prime Minister Juha Siplä addresses the Finnish Parliament on June 9. Image: Yle

Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä says that a realistic date for Britain to submit its resignation to the European Union would be in early autumn. He said on Monday that it would be best for the Brits to start the process as quickly as possible, but that it is understandable that the country may need some time. 

“It’s clear that Britain will need some time to get their house in order,” the premier said to the press after exiting his Grand Committee meeting.

Sipilä met with members of the parliamentary committee that handles all EU-related issues on Monday to discuss Brexit. The committee prepared Finland’s official statement on the matter for the EU summit beginning tomorrow that is scheduled to assess the British vote’s results.

Important to keep a cool head

The prime minister hoped that negotiations with Britain would proceed rationally.

“Britain is an extremely important partner to both Finland and the EU. It is important for Finland that we are able to see the situation pragmatically and negotiate objectively, without the emotional baggage behind both sides of the argument,” he said.

He confirmed that Finland would not begin informal negotiations with the Brits until the formal process has begun. 

“It’s important that matters proceed now in the proper order: first the motion to withdraw and then the negotiation process. I believe it will allow sufficient time.”

No Fixit vote anytime soon

An outspoken youth branch leader of Finland’s Eurosceptic and populist Finns Party, Sebastian Tynkkynen, has spearheaded a citizen’s initiative for a similar referendum in Finland on quitting the EU.  When the press asked Sipilä about what he would do if the sentiment spread to the rest of the party - his partners in the three-party governing coalition - he was adamant in his reply.

“This government will not be putting up an EU membership referendum.”

Sipilä said it is easy to blame the European Union for any number of problems that aren’t the fault of the union. He nevertheless went on to say that the result of the British vote must be taken seriously because there is much in the EU that needs improvement. 

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