"There is disbelief and bewilderment," said Petros Fassoulas, the secretary general of European Movement International, a lobbying group that promotes European integration. "It is impossible to comprehend how badly this has been handled."
U.K. lawmakers who need to approve a divorce deal are seemingly deadlocked.
“The fact that it’s been so difficult to understand what the Brits want has soured attitudes, and now the sense is the sooner they are out the better,” said Fassoulas, who was born and raised in Greece, worked in London and now lives in Brussels.
“It’s an unfortunate development and I don’t think it’s been handled well. I’m not sure they understood what they were getting themselves into,” said Shirin Hermanns, 30, a German who works for the European Commission in Brussels.
Hermanns studied international trade at Oxford University in 2014 and said she noticed a creeping hostility toward the E.U. in the U.K. media during her time there. The loss of the U.K.’s influence in the E.U., as well as British culture, also saddens her.
If the U.K. leaves the bloc with no framework in place for future trade, it would have economic consequences for both sides. The Bank of England has warned that the British economy could shrink by as much as 8 percent in about a year.
For those dealing with the business of the E.U., Brexit has proved to be an unwelcome distraction. The E.U. has its own long list of challenges at the moment, from an influx of migrants on its southern border to high levels of youth unemployment.
What’s more, European Parliament elections are set for May, and the E.U. and related organizations are gearing up for the mammoth campaign effort that takes place every five years.
“Most people feel, let’s get Brexit over and done with," said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the European Policy Centre, an independent think tank. "We hear similar arguments here about the U.K. to those we heard about the E.U. in the run-up to the referendum, that we can’t be shackled to the corpse of the U.K.,”
If anything, Brexit has highlighted the difficulties of leaving a social, economic and policy union after more than 40 years.
“The British example has shown how the E.U. is successful in creating interdependence,” Zuleeg said.
Rachel Elbaum is a London-based editor, producer and writer.