British vote to leave the European Union would damage the British, European and global economies, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said in an interview with the BBC
“We would have years of the most difficult negotiations, which would be very difficult for the EU as well. And for years we would have such insecurity that would be a poison to the economy in the UK, the European continent and for the global economy as well,” Schäuble said, according to a translation of the interview broadcast.
Schäuble said that while Britain would still be able to trade with the EU after leaving, it could not have the advantage of access to the bloc’s single market without accepting free movement of EU citizens or paying in to the EU’s budget.
He dismissed the idea that Britain could follow the example of countries such as Norway, which accepts freedom of movement, pays contributions to the EU budgets and applies the single market’s rules and regulations without having a vote on them.
“I cannot really see why the UK would be interested in staying within the single market without being able to make decisions about it,” he said. “It doesn’t really make sense.”
A collection of polls published by YouGov on Saturday showed that the “In” camp has had four consecutive leads since February 25, averaging 40% support compared with 37% for “Out.” Its four previous polls put the “Out” camp ahead.
The German finance minister said it would be a “catastrophe” if Britain left the bloc, but while the EU would be weaker without Britain, it would “not commit suicide.”
“Brexit” following a June 23 membership referendum would rock the EU by ripping away its second-largest economy and its richest financial center. Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain will be better off remaining in the bloc.
But the issue is a watershed inside his Conservative Party, with London’s influential mayor Boris Johnson backing the opposite side of the argument.
Johnson denied personal ambition was behind his decision to campaign for Britain to leave the EU and said it was a “golden opportunity” for the country to forge its own trade deals with the world.
Boris Johnson, whose backing for a so-called “Brexit” has angered Cameron and highlighted the deep splits within his Conservatives over Europe, said he believed the risky option was to remain inside the 28-nation bloc when Britons vote in a June 23 referendum.