Wolfgang Schäuble speaks. The Remain camp will wish he hadn’t
The Guardian today (10th June) relays the comments of German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble to Der Spiegel magazine. Here are the key passages…
‘Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has slammed the door on Britain retaining access to the single market if it votes to the leave the European Union.
In an interview in a Brexit-themed issue of German weekly Der Spiegel, the influential veteran politician ruled out the possibility of the UK following a Swiss or Norwegian model where it could enjoy the benefits of the single market without being an EU member.
“That won’t work,” Schäuble told Der Spiegel. “It would require the country to abide by the rules of a club from which it currently wants to withdraw.
“If the majority in Britain opts for Brexit, that would be a decision against the single market. In is in. Out is out. One has to respect the sovereignty of the British people.’
The Guardian then adds:
The German conservative’s intervention seems to rule out the “reverse Maastricht” option floated privately by some British MPs and government sources, whereby pro-remain MPs in Westminster could use their parliamentary majority to retain access to the single market after a British exit from the EU.
Their first target is likely to be to try to ensure that despite a Brexit the UK could remain in the single market by joining the European economic area, of which the non-EU countries Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland are currently members.
Here are my thoughts in return:
- Firstly the timing of this is significant. The EEA transition option is gaining traction and Remain doesn’t quite know what to do about it. The stories, not least on BBC Newsnight, of the civil service planning such an exit are also gaining traction.
- Schäuble is clearly doing what many Remainers do in this country — trying to tell ALL Leavers, including me, what we actually mean by Leave. Interpreting our own views for us. The statement then following that particular passage — “One has to respect the sovereignty of the British people” — is thus particularly galling. One could give Schäuble a two-word expletive-based answer. It’s certainly very cheeky.
- Linked to point 2 — but this is more important — he is basically suggesting to the post-Leave-vote British government how they should interpret a Leave vote. This is pure dynamite. The Remain camp should have their collective heads in their hands. Again, it’s a case of “butt out of it, Wolfgang”.
- Schäuble is not an idle observer in this. He has the European project to protect, and in the heat of the UK campaign has decided he needs to try and block the only viable exit in the hope that it might scare those final British waverers into voting Remain. He’s being highly political…..and yet he has blundered straight into the EU-as-a-prison theme, which even Remainers like Charles Grant (and others I’ve come across recently) now understand, painful though it is for them.
So Schäuble has confirmed what some nations elsewhere in the EU have discovered in much harsher ways.
The man is a bully and an anti-democratic one at that.
And one never stops a bully by appeasing them.