German vice chancellor: Brexit may send EU “down the drain”
Germany’s vice-chancellor has warned the future of the EU could be in doubt if the UK’s exit is handled badly.
Sigmar Gabriel said the EU would go “down the drain” if other states followed Britain’s lead and that the UK could not keep the “nice things” about Europe while taking no responsibility.
It comes as Theresa May summoned ministers for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss ideas for the UK’s withdrawal.
Downing Street said Brexit was “top” of the prime minister’s agenda.
But a report in The Sunday Times suggested her cabinet was split over leaving the single market.
The UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum vote on 23 June.
Mr Gabriel, who is also economy minister in Germany’s governing coalition and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy, told a news conference that as a result, the world now regarded Europe as an unstable continent.
“Brexit is bad but it won’t hurt us as much economically as some fear – it’s more of a psychological problem and it’s a huge problem politically,” he said.
“If we organise Brexit in the wrong way, then we’ll be in deep trouble, so now we need to make sure that we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things, so to speak, related to Europe while taking no responsibility.”
Mrs Merkel has met a number of European leaders during the past week to prepare the ground for a September summit focused on the EU’s future post-Brexit.
She has said remaining member states must listen to each other carefully and avoid rushing into policy decisions.
Meanwhile, Mrs May is due to begin drawing up blueprints for Brexit on Wednesday, when she hosts cabinet ministers at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire.
“Sigmar Gabriel said the EU would go “down the drain” if other states followed Britain’s lead and that the UK could not keep the “nice things” about Europe while taking no responsibility.”