European Union fears Brexit might delay after shock Britain vote

'We don't know when Brexit talks start, ' he said in a tweet after the shock general election result.

"We stand ready", said Mr Oettinger.

With results declared for all of the 650 seats of British Parliament, the Conservatives won 318 while the opposition Labour secured 262, leaving neither party anywhere close to the 326 seats required for an overall majority.

Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the talks would begin when Britain was ready, suggesting he would consider a short delay.

After the election result, European Council president Donald Tusk warned Britain might end up with no deal on its withdrawal arrangements or future trade if it did not open negotiations in time. We know when they must end.

She said talks with Britain on its withdrawal from what will now be the 27-member European Union would start "in the coming days".

In a letter to the PM congratulating her on her reappointment, he said the two-year time frame set out under Article 50 of the European Union treaties left no room for delay. "We want to do it quickly, respecting the calendar", Merkel said. Oliver Robbins, May's EU adviser, told his European counterparts: "The prime minister has directed that the procedures for preparing the negotiations for the formal withdrawal from the European Union should start as soon as possible".

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said he wanted Brexit discussions to proceed without delay, while Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit, said "negotiations should start when United Kingdom is ready". "Let's put our minds together on striking a deal".

But without the strong mandate Mrs May had hoped for, and with no majority, the UK's strategy for negotiating Brexit has been thrown into uncertainty.

Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who is president of the Alliance of Liberals & Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, had caustic words for Mrs May.

The former Belgian prime minister wrote on Twitter: "Yet another own goal, after Cameron now May, will make already complex negotiations even more complicated".

Asked whether he believed the election result indicated that the British were "turning their backs on Brexit", he said: "We will have to wait and see".

  • Leroy Wright