BERLIN (AA) – European Union’s next term president Slovakia Thursday urged member states to be realistic and ready for anything after Britain’s referendum next week on EU membership.
Addressing a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said EU member states should be equally prepared for a positive or negative outcome from the June 23 Brexit referendum.
“We hope that Great Britain will stay within the EU. But if things develop in another way, we must be prepared for that,” Fico said.
“We have had open discussions with Ms. Merkel on this, we have discussed possible developments after the referendum in Great Britain,” he added.
He argued that EU member states should work professionally on both possibilities.
“Because after the referendum it will be a different Europe regardless of the outcome, whether it would be a positive or negative one,” he said.
Slovakia will assume EU’s six-month presidency on July 1, a week after Britons decide whether to leave or stay in the EU. Recent polls show a tight race between the pro-EU and pro-Brexit camps.
The Slovakian premier declined to comment on the arguments from either side, saying doing so would be counterproductive.
“We can only express our wish. We hope that Great Britain stays within the EU as an integral part of the EU. Because we believe that it is good for Great Britain, and it is good for the EU,” Fico said.
Merkel also spoke cautiously about the Brexit referendum.
“It would be the decision of citizens of Great Britain, as I have repeatedly said, we would like to see Great Britain stay in the EU,” she said.
Merkel underlined that Britain would lose many advantages it enjoys now as a party to the single European market, if it decides to leave the European Union.
“We are now carrying out negotiations together with 28 member states…. then it would be 27 member states negotiating with another, which would be a third state… And I cannot see any advantage here,” she said.
EU’s economic heavyweight Germany fears that a possible U.K. exit from the EU might strengthen Eurosceptic movements in other member states and trigger similar referendums.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday that a possible vote for Brexit might spark nationalism and divisions among European states.
“It would rather be a shock for the EU. Then we would have to assure each other mutually that the EU will continue to stick together and this decades-long successful integration process will not turn into a disintegration in the end,” he said.
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