EU referendum: Brexit would see UK excluded from single market, German finance minister warns

Wolfgang Schäuble warns Brexit vote would mean 'Out is Out' for EU single market access

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Friday 10 June 2016 12:57 BST

Germany’s finance minister has ruled out Britain having access to the European single market in the event of Brexit, directly contradicting the reassurances of Boris Johnson and the Leave campaign.

In an interview in a special edition of German weekly Der Spiegel, Wolfgang Schäuble said that leaving the EU but staying in the single market would not work for the UK, saying: “In is in. Out is out.”

Some non-EU countries, most notably Norway, do have access to the single market, but must as a consequence allow freedom of movement for EU citizens. The Leave campaign has put controlling EU migration at the centre of its campaign, but also argued that Britain could still have access to the single market. Mr Schäuble’s comments appear to pour cold water on the prospects of any such compromise.

He told Der Spiegel: “That won’t work. It would require the country to abide by the rules of a club from which it currently wants to withdraw.

“If the majority in Britain opts 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.”

Leave campaign figurehead Boris Johnson repeated the claim that Britain would have access to the single market after Brexit as recently as Friday night’s ITV referendum debate.

In the interview, which will be published on Saturday, Mr Schäuble said that in the event of Brexit, Europe could “work without Britain”.

 German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble (AFP/Getty)
 (AFP/Getty Images)

“At some point the British will realise they have taken the wrong decision,” he added. “And then we will accept them back one day if that’s what they want.”

However, he said that a vote to Leave would send shockwaves around the EU, and could encourage other member states to consider leaving the bloc. He said the EU would not necessarily respond to Brexit by integrating more quickly, but would consider reforms to address the concerns of Eurosceptic citizens.

“How, for example, would the Netherlands react, as a country that has traditionally had very close ties to Britain?” he asked. “It is important for the EU to send the message that it has understood the vote and it is prepared to learn from it.”

“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 haven’t understood.”

What to believe about the EU referendum

Even a narrow vote in favour of Brexit would be a “wake up call” for Europe, he said, and the EU may respond by “reducing bureaucracy”.

The special Brexit-themed edition of Der Spiegel will be published in both German and English with the front cover headline: ‘Please don’t go!’.

In an editorial, the magazine will say that it is “unbelievable” that British people do not see “how much they’ve shaped the continent, how much we value them here, how close we Germans feel to them".

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in