German Finance Minister has suggested the UK would most likely find itself out in the cold regarding a trade deal if Brexit occurs. Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble said that if the British people vote to leave the European single market, they can forget about their country having trade access like they have today.
Dr. Schäuble’s comment directly contradicts the reassurances from Boris Johnson and others from the Leave camp who say we would find it easy to come to a special trade deal, given that the UK buys more from the EU than it sells to the economic bloc.
What the Leave camp fails to mention, however, is that exports to the UK represent just 8% of the EU total, while UK’s exports to the EU represent 45% of all our sales abroad. In other words, if it came to a standoff, we (Britain) would suffer considerably more than they would.
In a special edition of German weekly magazine Der Spiegel – Please Don’t Go! – German Finance Minister Dr. Schäuble says he thinks the UK is better off in the EU than out and suggests a Brexit vote would be the end of a free trade deal with the economic block. (Image: Adapted from twitter.com/SPIEGEL_English)
Dr. Schäuble made the comment during an interview with Der Spiegel (means ‘The Mirror’), a German weekly news magazine with a circulation of 840,000, known in German-speaking nations for its investigative journalism. According to The Economist, Der Spiegel is one of continental Europe’s most influential magazines.
The special Der Spiegel edition – with the cover headline “Please Don’t Go!” – will be published on Saturday in both English and German.
Some non-EU countries have access to the single market – for example Norway – but they have to sign up to the free movement of EU citizens rule.
Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and other Leave enthusiasts have repeatedly claimed two things are possible after a Brexit vote: 1. The UK would regain total control over immigration. 2. The country would come to a trade deal with the EU like the Norwegians and Swiss have.
Clearly, this is not the case – both Norway and Switzerland have to accept EU laws if they want market access – including the free movement of people – but have absolutely no say when legislation is being debated.
Dr. Schäuble said: “I hope and believe that the British will ultimately decide against Brexit. The withdrawal of Britain would be a heavy loss for Europe.” (Image: spiegel.de)
Dr. Schäuble’s warning appears to suggest we would not even be able to get a Norwegian-style deal. If one of Britons’ main reasons for leaving is the free movement of people issue, it would not make sense then to sign a trade deal agreeing to free movement.
Dr. Schäuble told Der Spiegel:
“If the majority in Britons opt for Brexit, that would be a decision against the single market. In is in. Out is out. One has to respect the sovereignty of the British people.”
Door open for UK to come back
On Friday night’s ITV EU referendum debate, Mr. Johnson repeatedly cited claims that the UK would have access to the single market if we voted to leave.
Dr. Schäuble believes that if Brexit occurs, the majority of Britons will realise after some time that they had made a bad decision. The EU will leave the door open for the UK to come back if that is what the people want at a future date, he added.
Dr. Schäuble said:
“At some point the British will realise they have taken the wrong decision. And then we will accept them back one day if that’s what they want.”
Wolfgang Schäuble (center) during his interview with Der Spiegel editors (left) Christiane Hoffmann and (right) Christian Reiermann in Berlin. (Image: spiegel.de)
Asked whether a Brexit would trigger a rush to faster EU integration, the German finance minister responded that he believes the opposite would occur – the event would send shockwaves across the EU, with many member states seeing their own citizens wanting to leave the bloc. Rather, he thinks the EU would have to consider introducing reforms to satisfy the concerns of Eurosceptic citizens.
Mr. Schäuble said:
“How, for example, would the Netherlands react, as a country that has traditionally had very close ties to Britain? It is important for the EU to send the message that is has understood the vote and it is prepared to learn from it.”
“In response to Brexit, we couldn’t simply call for more integration. That would be crude; many would rightfully wonder whether we politicians still haven’t understood.”
If Brits voted by a very narrow margin to leave the EU, Dr. Schäuble believes it would be a wake-up call for Europe, and Brussels would have to respond by trimming down its huge bureaucracy.
According to the German Government website, Federal Minister of Finance Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble was born in Freiburg on 18 September 1942. He is married with four children. He studied law and economics at the universities of Freiburg and Hamburg. (Image: bundesfinanzministerium.de)
The main thrust of the special edition is for the UK to remain, with editorials commenting how much Britain has shaped the continent “How much we value them here, how close we Germans feel to them.”
Regarding Britain and the EU, Dr. Schäuble said:
“Britain is one of the strongest economies in the EU, and London is Europe’s largest financial centre. Britain plays a leading role in all matters of foreign and security policy. That is why Europe is stronger with Britain than without it. Besides, the UK consistently advocates market-based solutions in Brussels, which frequently makes it an ally of the German government. And, in my view, one cannot have enough British pragmatic rationality in Europe.”
“Britain is economically very closely integrated with its European partner countries. Were these ties to be cut, it would be a huge step backwards for the country and would weaken it considerably. In the era of globalisation, “splendid isolation” is not a smart option.”
Video – Dr. Schäuble talking about Brexit
German Finance Minister, Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble, talking about the EU Referendum on 23rd June, when Britons will decide whether to remain or leave the economic bloc.