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EU leaders voice their views ahead of referendum
Yesterday, British PM David Cameron addressed the British nation from a podium in Downing Street in one of his last public appearances before tomorrow’s referendum. He said a Brexit would be “irreversible” and constitute a “risk to jobs, a risk to families, a risk to our children’s future.” Meanwhile, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi yesterday appeared before the European Parliament, where he insisted that Europe’s central bank is bracing itself for all eventualities in the event that the British public vote for the UK to leave the EU.
Several other EU leaders expressed their views in interviews. In an interview with FAZ, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker stresses that the EU needs the UK as much as the UK needs the EU. He explains that, “against my own temper,” he has only said little so far on the topic, because it could have been considered a provocation if the European Commission got involved in the British referendum campaign.
In an interview with Handelsblatt, Commissioner Jonathan Hill clearly states that he is in favour of the UK remaining a EU member state, even though he had previously not been a great defender of European integration, for example during the introduction of the euro which he rejected. L’Echo also interviewed Commissioner Hill who underlines this is the first time the British people can actually voice their desire to remain in the Union. He notes leaving the EU in order to have more international clout is pure nonsense and he is adamant that a Brexit would be a long, painful and complicated endeavour.
In an interview with Der Tagesspiegel, Martin Schulz criticises the fact that a political power struggle among the Tories has led to the referendum. It is source of bitterness that “an entire continent is being held political hostage.” Mr Schulz advocates for the UK to vote to remain and for a reform of the European treaties. In an interview with the Financial Times, PM Cameron insists he has no regrets about calling the EU referendum back in 2013. Mr Cameron also insists he will stay on as prime minister if he loses tomorrow.
Commenting in The Guardian, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi argues for Britain to remain in the EU. He writes that it is the opinion of Italians that a “vote to leave Europe would not be a disaster…It would be worse,” claiming that it would be the voters who ultimately pay the price for such a “mistake.” Commenting in The Times, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius writes that Britain is needed in the European Union. Mr Linkevicius believes that Britain should stay to help “make Europe better” and that without the UK “we will be worse off.”
Among other comments in favour of remaining in the EU, The Times reports that the bosses of more than half of Britain’s largest companies are urging voters to back Remain, in what was the biggest endorsement from the business world to date. Martin Wolf argues in the FT that “membership makes British power more effective”. Also commenting in the FT, Sir Martin Sorrell writes that a British vote to leave the EU would lead to “unintended consequences” that would hit the younger generation harder in particular. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt writes in L’Echo that “whatever problems Europe faces, the continent’s assets are more numerous than one might imagine.”
Among comments in favour of exiting the EU, is former Mayor of London Boris Johnson in the Daily Express. Regarding the potential economic crisis that could come with a Brexit vote, Mr Johnson notes that the UK economy is the fifth largest in the world and that the country does more trade beyond Europe than any other member state, except for Malta, and that “we are ready.”
Meanwhile, journalists continue to reflect on the possible consequences which, they say, go far beyond this vote. The Financial Times reports Whitehall is expecting great upheaval in the event of Brexit. Most worryingly is that Britain has not had to take part in trade negotiations since joining the EU. ABC reports that the European Commission will analyse the British referendum at its weekly meeting today, while the Parliament is making plans for an extraordinary plenary session.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the outcome of the Brexit referendum will have an impact on Europe irrespective of how the vote turns out. “The referendum, at a minimum, has delivered a shock to Europe’s political classes, calling into question what some had once regarded as an inevitable march toward a federal EU.” In the INYT, Eduardo Porter underlines the need for Europe to reassess the desires of the people, irrespective of the Brexit debate, warning that “Europe itself lacks a firm democratic foundation,” and stating that “the European Union must figure out how to overcome the narrow national interests and mistrust that tie it up in knots every time a collective response is needed.”
What’s at stake goes far beyond the UK’s relationship with Europe, writes Le Monde’s director Jérôme Fenoglio in an editorial. The entire European project might be questioned. Jérôme Fenoglio rejects the theory of some pro-Europeans in France that a Brexit will be an opportunity for France and Germany to revive EU integration. A Brexit will release the darkest powers already visible in European public opinion, i.e. increased nationalism, the strengthening of far-right ideas, threats to democracy and the risk of a domino effect.
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