Britain voting to leave the EU “would be a disastrous message of European weakness”, according to the chairman of Germany’s foreign affairs committee.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Christian Democrat MP Dr Norbert Röttgen said: “Europe would survive, but a British exit would be a diastrous symbol and signal and message to the entire world.
“In a time and global environment where we are facing global disorder and the world is falling apart, there is a requirement for a strong Europe, for European unity and strength, and a signal to fall apart, to get disintegrated, would be a disastrous message of European weakness.”
Dr Röttgen, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party, said David Cameron’s decision to hold an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 was a way of dealing with “a divisive issue within his own party, the Tory party”. He was now calling on voters “to solve the party problem, and now we have this problem to deal with in Europe”.
Amid indications that the referendum could be held in 2016, Dr Röttgen said Germany’s attitude was the “sooner the better”, with a British withdrawal “heartbreaking” for Germans.
“The fact is it would break the hearts of most Germans if Great Britain would leave. It would break my heart absolutely – in general and particularly because I love this country and I’m absolutely, strongly convinced that European unity is crucial to assert our way of living in this globalised world.”
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Germany had an “emotional relationship” with Britain. “We want to have a well balanced European Union and Great Britain contributes to the balance of what Europe really means.”
Although Germany was willing to do “everything we can afford” to keep Britain in the EU, changing European treaties to reflect British concerns was “not realistic”, nor was interfering with freedom of movement within the EU.
“Everything that would require treaty change is not realistic. For example, if there was a proposal which would imply or include a violation of the freedom of movement, which would imply discrmination against workers of other EU member states …. this would be in clear contrast a violation of a core and hard fundamental principle of the European Union.”
David Cameron is holding talks with other European leaders in the hope he can persuade them to back his proposals for reforms that can be put to British voters in a referendum.