UK vote gamble could complicate Brexit: Europe leaders

Paris (AFP) - Britain was plunged into political turmoil on Friday after Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority in a snap election just days before negotiations on leaving the EU were set to begin.

Here is a roundup of the reaction from across Europe to the shock election result:

- 'Talks when ready' -

Michel Barnier, the EU's point man on Brexit talks, said discussions on Britain's exit should only start when London was properly prepared.

"Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready; timetable and EU positions are clear. Let's put our minds together on striking a deal," Barnier, who wants talks to begin on June 19, said on Twitter.

EU President Donald Tusk urged Britain not to let the hung parliament delay negotiations.

"We don't know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a 'no deal' as result of 'no negotiations'," he tweeted.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he hoped the unexpected election result would not put off talks.

"As far as the commission is concerned we can open negotiations tomorrow morning at half past nine," Juncker told reporters in Prague.

- 'Lost her bet' -

"Mrs May, who was supposed to emerge strengthened, lost her bet and is therefore in a less than clear situation because the truth is that we don't really know what the governing situation is this morning," EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told French radio Europe 1.

Asked whether the Brexit talks could open as soon as the planned June 19 date, he said: "Let's not rush things but either way, we are ready."

- 'Weak negotiating partner' -

"We need a government that is capable of action, which can negotiate Britain's exit... the British need to negotiate their exit but with a weak negotiating partner, there is a danger that the talks are bad for both parties," EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German radio.

Oettinger said the EU "stands ready" for Brexit talks, "but the next few hours or days will indicate if the other negotiating party can even begin talks because without a government, there can be no negotiations."

- 'The people have spoken' -

"The British have spoken, they have voted, and have given the Conservative party a majority, albeit a simple majority, which is something of a surprise," French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told Europe 1 radio.

But he added: "I don't think we should read these results as calling into question the stance on Brexit which was clearly expressed by the British people."

- 'Bad sign' -

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the vote reflected discontent over May's pursuit of a hard Brexit.

"The message from this vote is -- hold fair talks with the EU and think again whether it is really good for Britain to leave the EU in this manner," he told reporters.

Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz tweeted: "It is important that Brexit negotiations proceed as planned and that we quickly achieve legal certainty for citizens. We need a close partnership with the UK even after Brexit."

But Poland's deputy premier Jaroslaw Gowin said the result was "a bad sign" that would "only exacerbate concerns over the future of Europe".

- 'Wait and see' -

"The British people have chosen. What the new set-up means for #Brexit we will have to wait and see," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a tweet.

"The Netherlands is ready for cooperation."

- 'Tip of the iceberg' -

Norway's foreign minister, whose country twice voted against joining the EU but has access to the bloc's single market, said Brexit talks would be "harder" after Britain's result.

"It's going to be difficult for Britain as I believe we've only seen the tip of the iceberg concerning the difficulties linked with leaving the EU," Borge Brende told local media.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told the TT news agency that "it remains to be seen how the outcome of the election will affect Brexit negotiations".