The message sent Monday by German, French and Italian leaders was clear: No formal or informal talks with Britain until it triggers Article 50 — the clause that formally sets in motion the two-year period for it to leave the European Union.
That point was stressed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference Monday in Berlin, delivering a blow to hopes by some pro-Brexit leaders.
"As long as this request has not been placed with the European Union, no measure can be taken," Merkel said.
That's not expected to happen until after a replacement is chosen for British Prime Minister David Cameron, probably in September.
Merkel spoke after the three heads of state met to forge a common position, as chaos spreads across Britain, the EU and financial markets after Britons voted last week to leave the 28-member bloc.
The three leaders also outlined priorities — security, growth and jobs, youth and the eurozone — they believe the EU should focus on, ahead of a two-day summit in Brussels addressing moving ahead without Britain.
Despite the show of unity, there are mixed messages.
While Merkel calls for a measured process, French President Francois Hollande is among those urging a speedy outcome in breaking the ties.
It's important not to waste time, he stressed, as nothing is worse than uncertainty. It generates irrational political and financial behavior, he added, which the U.K. is experiencing.
The Brexit vote has plunged Europe into an unprecedented crisis, sparking calls by some Europeans to follow suit, and others for major reforms. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting with European and British leaders Monday, warned EU members against being vengeful.