BERLIN (AA) – Germany and France voiced concern Wednesday over Britain’s possible exit from the European Union.
Addressing a joint press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault in Brandenburg/Havel near Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that a vote for Brexit in next week’s referendum in the U.K. would risk disintegrating the 28-member bloc, and might trigger nationalism and divisions among European states.
“If the majority of Britons would vote to exit from the EU, things would not simply continue as 28 minus one,” Steinmeier said.
“It would rather be a shock for the EU. Then we would have to assure each other mutually that the EU will continue to stick together and this decades-long successful integration process will not turn into a disintegration in the end,” he added.
Steinmeier emphasized that both Germany and France had made remarkable contributions to the EU integration since the 50’s, and would continue their efforts to bring it forward.
"Based on our historical experiences, both belong to those who say that we cannot fall back to nationalism of European states, where one struggles against another,” he said.
Ayrault said Britain’s referendum on EU membership had led to an emotional debate in the country, but also made it possible for its citizen to see the benefits of its membership, in terms of economy, security and many other fields.
“Like Frank, I hope that this debate would develop in a way where in the end our British friends would remain in the EU, as an active partner within the EU,” he said.
“In light of all these challenges, as France and Germany, we are aware of our responsibilities, we have to offer answers, we have to offer security and continue to play our role,” he added.
Britain will hold a nationwide referendum on June 23 on whether the U.K. should leave or stay in the EU. Recent polls show a tight race between the pro-EU and pro-Brexit camps.