BERLIN – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believes the U.K. leaving the EU would be catastrophic but he has no plans to campaign personally in Britain because the institution he leads is so unpopular there, he said Thursday.
Asked during a visit to Berlin if he would appear in Britain ahead of the June 23 Brexit referendum, Juncker replied: “No.” He told his German audience that this was “because the European Commission is even more disliked in Britain than in Germany.”
Juncker was interviewed on stage at broadcaster WDR’s “Europe Forum” in the German foreign ministry, where he urged Brits to stay, for the EU’s sake as well as their own. “We need British pragmatism in Europe,” he said, adding that a Leave vote would be a “catastrophe” and encourage other wavering countries who “fancy more of the same.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at the same event that finding compromise in the EU “would be much more difficult” without Britain at the table. German officials often say privately that without the U.K. it would be much more difficult for them to find EU partners with a similar view on economic, trade and defense issues.
Addressing some of the Leave campaign’s main messages, Steinmeier said it was “wrong to make people believe there are national answers” to problems like terrorism and migration, and that “sealing off” the country was no solution.
Taking Britain out of the EU could also cause the conflict in Northern Ireland to flare up again, said Steinmeier.
“The very moment that the U.K. leaves, we’ll have a border again between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That has at least the potential to ignite a conflict that apparently has become totally calm.”
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