World Economy

Brexit Would Be ‘Poison’

Brexit Would Be ‘Poison’Brexit Would Be ‘Poison’

A British vote to leave the European Union would damage the British, European and global economies, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview with the BBC.

A British exit 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.

"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," Schaeuble said, according to a translation of the interview broadcast on Sunday.

Schaeuble 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 Feb. 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".

In response to a question about Turkey's possible future accession to the bloc, he said the German government had major doubts about whether it should become a full EU member.

"It will be a long time before we reach the end of negotiations with Turkey," he said. "This is a question for the coming years, it is not a worry at the present time."

'Crushing' a Supporter

The battle for Britain to leave or remain within the European Union stepped up a gear Sunday as London Mayor Boris Johnson accused the establishment of "crushing" a business leader for publicly supporting a Brexit, RTE reported.

Johnson, the leading advocate of the campaign for Britain to leave the EU in a June referendum, said it was "absolutely scandalous" that John Longworth had been suspended as head of the British Chambers of Commerce.

"It cannot be right that when someone has the guts to dissent from the establishment line, he or she is immediately crushed by the agents of Project Fear," Johnson said in a statement.

Those in favor of a Brexit have dubbed the campaign to stay in the EU "Project Fear" because of its focus on the security and economic risks of ending Britain's 43-year-old membership of the European bloc.

David Cameron's office was forced to deny that it had leaned on the BCC to suspend Longworth, after he challenged the organization's official neutrality on Thursday declaring his personal support for a Brexit.

"We are clear no pressure was put on the BCC to suspend him," a Downing Street spokesman said.

But former Conservative defense minister Liam Fox, another Brexit supporter, told the Sunday Times newspaper: "Project Fear is turning into Project Intimidation. Threats and bullying do not reflect well on those who promote them and are likely to infuriate the British people."

Cameron and Johnson are both members of the Conservative party but they have long been rivals, and the campaign for the June 23 referendum has pitted them head to head.

The prime minister has accused Johnson of being motivated by a desire to one day replace him in Downing Street, but the mayor dismissed this Sunday as "cobblers".