The German government has admitted in a secret briefing paper leaked to Die Welt newspaper that another five countries—France, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, and Hungary—might follow Britain’s example and leave the European Union.
The document warns that a prolonged and messy British exit process can have a “crucial” impact in boosting the Eurosceptic movements in all five nations.
The document, titled “Task Force: Proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union” was developed by the German Finance Ministry for what it describes as “difficult divorce proceedings.”
The document says it was to offer the UK “constructive outlet negotiations” which will end up in Britain becoming an “associate partner country” of the EU.
The exit process—governed by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty—allows for a two-year withdrawal process. “This creates time and the basis for negotiations,” the document says, adding that if necessary, this time period could be extended.
The paper also says it was to “grant the UK no large benefits”—specifically that there must be no “automatic access to the EU’s single market,” because, it continues, “otherwise other EU states will follow the UK’s path.”
This danger is highlighted by the fact that there are “imitation tendencies” in other European nations, the paper says, specifically listing France, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, and Hungary.
Die Welt said in its commentary that the German Finance Minister is therefore “trying to walk a middle ground in the fundamental question of whether the EU should make an example of the UK in order to prevent other countries from quitting, or whether it should try and bind the island [Britain] closer to the EU and try and limit the economic damage with the hope of later convincing Britain of the idea of a united Europe.”
Die Welt adds that the former attitude currently prevails: that Britain should not be granted any special terms and be “treated like any other country outside the EU,” otherwise other member states could also “demand special conditions for themselves through the threat of referendums. And that would be the end of the EU.”
On the other hand, Die Welt says, some know exactly how much is at stake, economically speaking. With Brexit, the EU is going to lose “almost 20 percent of its economic power,” and, more importantly, in a “tough divorce,” unforeseen political consequences may emerge.
* Meanwhile, France’s Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, has pledged to hold a French referendum if she emerges victorious in next year’s presidential elections.
In the Netherlands, a Nexit has also been postulated after Dutch voters earlier this year rejected a Ukraine-European Union treaty, and populist politician Gert Wilders—currently leading in the opinion polls—has already called for a UK-style vote.
Finally, the German taxpayers are not going to be pleased with the news that they are going to be forced to pay £2.44 billion ($3.3 billion) a year to the annual EU budget once Britain has left.