Paris (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande said Friday that Britain's vote to leave the EU was a "grave test for Europe" in view of the economic and financial consequences.
"The British vote poses a grave test for Europe, which must show solidity and strength in its response to the economic and financial risks," Hollande said after meeting with his cabinet.
Expressing his chagrin over the vote, he said: "It always takes less time to undo than to do, to destroy than to build."
But "the choice is theirs, and we must respect it," the Socialist president said.
Echoing Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's tweet earlier Friday that Europe must win back the trust of its people, Hollande said "the decision also requires a lucid awareness of the inadequacies of Europe's functioning and people's loss of trust in the project."
Brexit could also further support for far-right elements in the EU, he warned, saying: "There is a huge danger in the face of extremism and populism."
The French leader had on Wednesday warned that Brexit would have "extremely serious consequences".
"It's more than the future of the United Kingdom that is at stake, it's the future of the European Union," he said.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the vote revealed "a malaise that has been ignored for too long" within the EU.