German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned against a knee-jerk reaction to Britain's decision to leave the EU after 43 years. In a televised address, Merkel instead appealed for a "calm and measured" approach from the EU, but admitted that she "deeply regrets" the decision of British voters.
"There's no way around it: Today is a watershed moment for Europe, for European unification," said Merkel, speaking in Berlin. The remaining member states should avoid "drawing any hasty or easy conclusions from the referendum in Britain that would only divide Europe further. We need to do a calm and measured analysis of the situation," the German chancellor added.
Merkel described a Brexit as "a blow to Europe and to the European unification process". She added that while the UK negotiates its exit from the EU, "all rights and obligations will still be in effect until the membership is totally removed."
Meanwhile French President Francois Hollande said that it is a "sad decision," but added that he respects the "painful" outcome from the vote and said France would continue to work with "this friendly country". Hollande also warned that the EU "must recognise its shortfalls."
He added: "A jolt is necessary. Europe must reaffirm its values of freedom, solidarity, peace. The EU must be understood and controlled by its citizens. I will do everything to secure profound change rather than decline."
Merkel is set to meet with Hollande, Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi and European Council president, Donald Tusk in Berlin on 27 June.
EU leaders have been sending messages of unity following the historic decision taken by voters up and down the UK. "We urgently need a new vision and beginning for a united Europe – for a better Europe, more social and democratic," said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Renzi said: "We have to change it to make it more humane and more just, but Europe is our home, it's our future."