Brexit would be a 'lose lose' for everyone, warns German politician
Negotiating a British withdrawal from the European Union will be very difficult to do within the allocated two-year period, a member of the Bundestag's finance committee has said.
At a German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce-organised lunch on the possibility of a withdrawal, Dr Jens Zimmermann said a Brexit would be a "lose lose" for everyone. He said an exit would make both Britain and the EU weaker.
Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty sets out the process of withdrawal for an EU member state. It has never yet been triggered.
The treaty allows for up to two years of negotiations. If no agreement has been reached by this point, all 27 other member states either have to unanimously agree to extend the negotiation period, or Britain exits with no deal in place.
"I have the opinion that two years is not a lot of time and I don't have the impression that it will be possible after two years to have a full access to the single market," Dr Zimmermann said.
"There is always the discussion about the Norway and Switzerland scenario yet these countries negotiated for far longer than two years about their access to the single market. So this might be very, very difficult."
Dr Zimmermann said the issue of Brexit is not being overly discussed in Germany, as other issues, such as the migration crisis and the conflict in Syria takes precedence.
However, he said the consensus among all the German political parties is that it is in the vital interest of the country that the UK remain part of the EU.
He said Germany's European Affairs minister has often voiced his concern about the British relationship with the EU.
"From time to time he's really fed up with the Brits," Dr Zimmermann said. "They want extra here, and extra there. They are complaining all the time. But this is like having a birthday when all the family comes together and you have that aunt, but it's family."
He said it would be a shame if the EU was to lose Britain, adding the German foreign minister had contemplated writing an open letter to the British press, but thought against it.
"In the end, my perception is it would be a lose-lose situation to everybody. It would be damaging to the UK, the European Union would be economically and politically weaker and it would also have negative effects to Germany and to Ireland."
Meanwhile, Reuters reported yesterday that US financial regulators are demanding regular updates from Wall Street banks about their Brexit contingency plans. Scenarios under scrutiny range from how their London operations would handle lengthy uncertainty, to whether they could still offer financial services in continental Europe from a non-EU Britain.