BERLIN (AA) – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble voiced concern Friday over the consequences of a possible U.K. exit from the European Union.
Schauble told German magazine Der Spiegel that the U.K.’s possible departure might trigger similar referendums in other member states.
"How, for example, would the Netherlands react, as a country that has traditionally had very close ties to Britain?" he asked.
Schauble acknowledged risks for the EU but also argued that a Brexit would not lead to “an existential crisis” for the 28-member bloc.
"Europe will also work without Britain if necessary," he said, adding that officials were preparing for all scenarios to limit the risks arising from a possible Brexit.
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.
As Europe’s economic heavyweight, Germany has repeatedly stressed that it wants Britain to stay within the 28-member bloc. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s senior ministers have also made it clear that the U.K would see tough negotiations on its future ties with the EU, if it votes to leave the union.
- ‘In is in, out is out’
Schauble warned that Britain’s exit from the EU would likely have negative consequences for the U.K.'s economy.
"It would be a miracle if there were no economic drawbacks following a British withdrawal," he said.
He also underlined that in the case of a Brexit, the U.K. would not be able to maintain the advantages of the single market.
"In is in, out is out," he stressed.
Schauble, a long-time and strong advocate of closer EU integration, also acknowledged that the U.K.’s possible exit would challenge such plans.
"In response to Brexit, we couldn't simply call for more integration," he said.
"That would be crude, many would rightfully wonder whether we politicians still hadn't understood," he added.
- Merkel hopes Britain will stay
Angela Merkel has expressed her hope on Friday that Britain would stay within the EU.
“Great Britain’s staying as a member of the European Union is the best and most desirable thing for all of us,” she said in an address to a group of business people in Berlin.
Merkel underlined the importance of close cooperation with the U.K., and expressed her willingness to further develop ties within the EU framework.
However, she also stressed that it would be up to British voters to decide on the future of their country.