German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has warned Britain that it would not gain access to the single market if it left the European Union, as Britain’s Labour Party came out fighting for a “Remain” vote.
“That won’t work,” the veteran minister told Germany’s Der Spiegel weekly, which on Saturday plans to publish a German-English edition at home and in Britain with “Please don’t go!” on the cover.
“That would require the country to follow the rules of a club which right now it wants to leave.”
The stark warning by one of Europe’s most senior officials is a blow to “Brexit” supporters, who have argued that Britain could negotiate deals to access the single market similar to those in place for non-members Norway and Switzerland.
With polls on a knife-edge before the June 23 referendum, senior figures in Britain’s opposition Labour party made an impassioned plea to stay in the EU amid fears their failure to get out the left-wing vote may result in a Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is officially backing the “Remain” campaign but has been keeping a low profile, leaving members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives to fight it out between themselves.
Ahead of a speech in London, former party leader Ed Miliband acknowledged in a BBC interview: “Some Labour voters don’t know where we stand at the moment.”
Corbyn has refused to share a platform with Cameron and there are concerns some Labour voters would abstain or back a Brexit to give the Conservative leader a bloody nose.
Miliband urged them not to, saying: “This is not a mid-term protest... This is a once-in-a-generation decision which will shape our country for decades to come.”
He accused the “Leave” campaign, also backed by the anti-immigration UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, of “trying to perpetrate a fraud on Labour voters”.
“They want to get out of the EU not to improve workers’ rights but to sweep them away,” said Miliband, who stepped down after losing last year’s general election.
Labour deputy party leader Tom Watson is due to release predictions of how Britain might look outside the EU, on the premise that Cameron would be ousted in favour of a more right-wing Conservative government.
“The economic turbulence of a Brexit would create a massive black hole in the public finances, and an unfair Tory government that will make ordinary families pay for it through further cuts and tax rises”, he said, according to the Daily Mirror tabloid.
A YouGov poll for The Times this week found public opinion evenly split between leaving or staying in the EU, but Labour voters favoured “Remain” by 61 per cent to 26 per cent, with the remainder either not voting or undecided.
However, Labour voters were also marginally less likely to say they would definitely vote.
The leaders of 10 major trade unions came out in favour of staying in the EU, but many workers blame the mass migration caused by the EU’s freedom of movement rules for driving down wages.
Backbenchers John Mann and Dennis Skinner, announced they were backing Brexit to secure workers’ rights.
In an article for The Sun tabloid, this week, Mann said the arrival of hundreds of thousands of EU migrants into Britain each year was “worsening inequality”.