THE head of the European Commission insisted Brexit talks should begin at once despite the loss of the Tory Westminster majority.

The General Election was held just 11 days before exit negotiations were scheduled to begin after Theresa May had gambled her party’s dominance in a bid to crush opposition ahead of the talks.

Yesterday Jean-Claude Juncker said he wanted the process to continue without delay.

Speaking in Brussels, he said: “As far as the Commission is concerned we can open negotiations tomorrow morning at half past nine.

“First we have to agree on the divorce and exit modalities, and then we have to envisage the architecture of our future relations. I do hope that the result of the elections will have no major impact on the negotiations we are desperately waiting for.”

Europe’s top-level politicians shared their views on the outcome, with Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, saying negotiations “should start when the UK is ready”. Adding that the “timetable and EU positions are clear, he said: “Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal.”

In his response, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, reminded the UK that there is a deadline – March 2019 – for concluding what will be complex withdrawal arrangements.

He tweeted: “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’.”

However, in an official congratulations to May issued later, he said: “Our shared responsibility and urgent task now is to conduct the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in the best possible spirit, securing the least disruptive outcome for our citizens, businesses and countries after March 2019.

“The timeframe set by Article 50 of the Treaty leaves us with no time to lose.

“I am committed to maintaining regular and close contact at our level to facilitate the work of our negotiators.

“I also look forward to welcoming you to the European Council later this month where we will discuss counter-terrorism, security and defence, trade and the Paris Agreement amongst other issues.”

However, Carl Bildt, chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, called the result “messy” and Guy Verhofstadt MEP, who will also be part of the EU’s talks team said it was an “own goal”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to comment on the outcome of the ballot, citing “politeness and respect” as the reason.

However, senior German MP Stephan Meyer did share his views, telling one radio station: “Officially, Theresa May is still the partner in Brexit negotiations, but the political reality is different after this disastrous defeat.

“I can’t imagine that May will be able to remain Prime Minister.”

The European media carried the story prominently, with Germany’s Bild newspaper calling the result a “blow for Theresa May” and La Repubblica of Italy writing: “May’s gamble fails, loses her majority.”

In its report, Le Monde of France covered the pound’s fall against the dollar and warned it may take weeks to secure a new Westminster administration.

The country’s Le Figaro title framed Labour growth as an “impressive rebound”, also calling it a “spectacular and powerful comeback” for Jeremy Corbyn, who it said could now “assert himself as a kingmaker”.

The result was also widely reported outwith Europe.

In the Washington Post, former US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he was “delighted to see Labour do so well”, adding: “All over the world people are rising up against austerity and massive levels of income and wealth inequality.

“People in the UK, the US and elsewhere want governments that represent all the people, not just the one per cent. I congratulate Jeremy Corbyn for running a very positive and effective campaign.”

Russian news channel Rossiya 24 said May had suffered a “devastating defeat” while Australian outlets reported comments made by Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten, who said lessons should be learned for his country’s politics in general, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in particular.

He said: “One of the things which my counterpart, the Labour leader in the United Kingdom, did is he campaigned and his slogan was ‘For the many, not the few.’ I think Mr Turnbull would be well advised to look at the popularity of that message.”

Meanwhile, Doha-based Al Jazeera said a “fierce campaign” by Labour had caught the Tories out and Al Akhbar of Lebanon reported that “Corbyn brings down the hopes of the Conservatives.”