Wednesday 28 September 2016

EU 'would lose more than just a country' if UK votes for Brexit

Published 20/06/2016 | 11:26

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, second right, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg (AP)
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, second right, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg (AP)
Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the EU would be losing "more than just a country" if Britons vote to leave the bloc

European Union heavyweights Germany and France have said the bloc would be poorer if the UK votes in favour of Brexit.

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German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Europe would "lose more than just a country. We would be losing the history and traditions of Great Britain in the European Union".

He said that "Europe would be much poorer if Britain leaves".

Mr Steinmeier's French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said: "The choice the British people make will be important for them, but also for Europe."

He told reporters at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg: "All Europeans are looking to the British people, because we have - history reminds us - a long life in common."

The UK's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said "there will be no going back" if Britons vote to leave the EU.

He said that even if it was possible to reapply for EU membership, the outcome of Thursday's referendum will be an "irreversible decision".

Mr Hammond said "Britain could never rejoin the European Union at a later date except on terms that would be unacceptable to it", including membership of the euro and membership of the Schengen passport-free travel zone.

He is pressing his EU counterparts in Luxembourg to swiftly implement negotiated concessions if the UK votes to remain in the bloc.

Prime Minister David Cameron won a series of concessions during his renegotiation of the UK's membership of the EU in February on immigration, the euro and staying out of ever-closer union.

Mr Hammond said Britons "will expect a speedy and complete implementation of the package that was agreed in February".

He added that Brussels needs "to make sure that the EU works for all its people going forward and addresses the concerns of ordinary people".

EU President Donald Tusk has promised that the concessions would be implemented in "less than one year".

Elsewhere in Europe, a Swedish newspaper joined the chorus of publications across the continent urging Britons to vote to remain in the EU.

Sweden's biggest financial daily newspaper Dagens Industri channelled one of its country's greatest exports, the pop group Abba, as the front page of Monday's edition was emblazoned with the Union flag and the headline "Take a Chance on EU", a reference to one of the band's biggest hits.

In its online edition, the paper's political editor PM Nilsson lists things he believes Sweden and the UK have in common, from similar tastes in music to a belief in free trade and that "meetings should start on time".

Mr Nilsson wrote in English that "we are all like you - proud and headstrong with special relationships to each other. And we have a club. Don't leave it".

Dutch newspaper AD suggested the EU without the UK would be like "tea without milk" last week as it featured an adapted Union flag on its front page alongside the headline "Don't leave me this way", the day after The Sun backed the Leave campaign.

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said Europe will wake up to "a new political reality" if the UK votes to leave the EU.

He told Swedish news agency TT: "We don't know exactly which effects and which forces could be triggered in Europe. But it doesn't mean any collapse, panic or chaos in Sweden. We will manage."

Press Association

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