AN OMINOUS message has come from a senior German politician signalling that, unless Britain is made to suffer for voting Brexit, Europe itself would “go down the drain”.
The comments from economy minister Sigmar Gabriel come as EU representatives and a British negotiating team prepare themselves for months, if not years, of protracted wrangling over the eventual terms of the Brexit divorce.
Gabriel, who made headlines this week giving neo-Nazi protestors the middle finger, said that Europe was now an unstable continent in the eyes of the world and that Britain must pay a steep price to deter other EU countries from following suit.
“Brexit is bad but it won’t hurt us as much economically as some fear – it’s more of a psychological problem and it’s a huge problem politically,” he said.
“If we organise Brexit in the wrong way, then we’ll be in deep trouble, so now we need to make sure that we don’t allow Britain to keep the nice things, so to speak, related to Europe while taking no responsibility,”
On Wednesday Theresa May will hold a meeting of top cabinet ministers at her countryside retreat to attempt to iron out a unified strategy ahead of the negotiations, expected to begin in spring 2017.
The talks come amid suggestions that the cabinet is deeply divided over what kind of Brexit would be in the country’s best interests.
Some, including chancellor Philip Hammond, prefer a Brexit-lite option that would sacrifice some control over immigration from EU countries in exchange for free market access.
Others such as the Atlanticist Liam Fox and his housemate David Davis favour a firm split with Britain seeking economic shelter alongside Anglophile and commonwealth states.