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Brexit: In Brussels, Sadness And Uncertainty

In a display of support and of gratitude, dozens of officials jammed into a packed news conference in Brussels
In a display of support and of gratitude, dozens of officials jammed into a packed news conference in Brussels on Friday and gave Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, a round of applause after he called on Britain to speed up its plans to leave the European Union.

There was a mix of grief and anger on Friday in Brussels as officials came to terms with the decision by Britain to leave the European Union.

Some officials at the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, broke into tears at their offices in the star-shaped Berlaymont building. Others quietly condemned Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain for calling for political reasons a referendum that ended up shaking the European project to its core.

It is the first time in the nearly six-decade history of the European project that a member state has decided to leave.

Though some officials had seen an intense storm that swept through Brussels on Thursday night as an ominous sign, most had gone to sleep expecting Britain to vote to remain in the bloc. They awoke on Friday to a decisive victory for the opposing campaign.

Seeking to shore up morale, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, emailed thousands of officials, including several hundred from Britain, pledging to try to preserve their jobs after Britain leaves the bloc.

In the email, Mr. Juncker said that he intended “to send a clear message to you, colleagues, and especially to colleagues of British nationality.”

“As European civil servants you have always been loyal to our Union, contributing tremendously to our common European project,” he wrote.

In a display of support and of gratitude, dozens of officials jammed into a packed news conference early Friday afternoon and gave Mr. Juncker a round of applause after he called on Britain to speed up its plans to leave the bloc rather than prolong the uncertainty.

In Luxembourg, where European Union government ministers were gathered to prepare for a leaders’ summit meeting in Brussels next week, the atmosphere was somber, according to Dara Murphy, an Irish minister for European affairs. There was a “genuine feeling of regret, disappointment and loss” among delegates, Mr. Murphy wrote in a text message.

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