European Leaders Call for Britons to Remain in EUJune 22, 2016 in Britian
Anxious European leaders have issued a number of calls to Britons to stay in the European Union (EU) rather than to risk years of economic damage, however the prime minister whose country will chair the EU from July has stated that it must prepare for a Brexit.
From German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to the heads of the EU institutions in Brussels and the man who forged the modern EU, Jacques Delors, they said that remaining in the EU would be better for Britain and Europe. While they are aware that outside pressure may be counterproductive, they all stressed that it was for voters to decide. While most European leaders have previously muted appeals to the British for fear of being counter productive, a swing towards Brexit in opinion polls a week before the 23 June referendum has sparked deep concern about the impact on the EU, effectively prompting a greater readiness to warn Britons of the harsh consequences.
Chancellor Merkel, who did her best in order to help British Prime Minister David Cameron negotiate a special status deal for Britain in February, has stated that the UK could be shut out of the prized single market on which its large financial services sector is heavily reliant. She stated that “if Britain votes to leave the EU, it will no longer be able to benefit from the advantages of the European common market,” adding that any negotiation of future terms of access would start with Britain bong on the outside. She noted, “I can’t imagine that would be any kind of advantage…But the decision is ultimately up to the Britons.”
While finance ministers from the nineteen EU countries that use the euro currency met on 16 June in Luxembourg, their chairman, Dutch minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, stating that they would not discuss any contingency plans for Brexit. While he acknowledged concern about the British vote, he stated that there was no “Plan B” to deal with it, adding that he was confident that Britons would vote to remain in the EU. That confidence however is not widely shared in Brussels, especially in the past two weeks as polls have swung towards Brexit. One senior diplomat has stated, “we are approaching the point of no return. Brexit is now a visible scenario…We are talking, loudly but not in public. But there is nothing we can do.”
Robert Fico, the outspoken prime minister of Slovakia, who met with Merkel on Thursday, has also indicated that he thinks Britain will vote to leave. He stated, “if you’re watching football and your team is three behind in the 90th minute of the game, its unlikely that there will be a turnaround and that suddenly you will win.” His country’s six-month presidency of the EU begins in July, and would effectively give Slovakia some role in the start of negotiations with a Britain set on leaving the EU. Fico has warned that the polls shows that it is now time to be “realistic” about preparing for that eventuality.
While European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the Union Chief executive, told a questioner at an economic form in Russia that Brexit would not put “the EU in danger of death” he has cautioned against a rise of euro-scepticism across Europe. And like European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs EU summits, Juncker warned that a Leave vote would unleash “major uncertainty.” Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, made one of his most impassioned calls yet for Britons to stay, saying, “Europe without the United Kingdom will be distinctly weaker. This is obvious. Equally obvious is that the UK outside the EU will be distinctly weaker too,” warning that Brexit would bring “seven years of limbo and uncertainty in our relations.”
Juncker’s distant predecessor from 1985 – 1995, Jacques Delors, has also issued a statement in a bid to dispel rumours that he favoured a Brexit to let other states to integrate further. The architect of the euro single currency stated, “I consider the UK’s participation in the European Union to be a positive element both for the British and for the Union.”