Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Fearful EU States Might Penalize U.K. for Brexit, Hammond Says

  • There is `real fear' in EU that Brexit could spark `contagion'
  • Poll shows voters pessimistic Cameron will get a good deal

U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that his country could be penalized if it leaves the European Union because governments fearful of anti-EU sentiment in their own nations will not want to see Britain succeed alone.

“The thing we have to remember is there’s a real fear in Europe that if Britain leaves, the contagion will spread,” Hammond said on BBC Television’s Andrew Marr show Sunday. “People who say we’d do a great deal with Europe if we left forget that the countries remaining in the European Union would be looking over their shoulder at people in their own countries saying, ‘if Britain can do it, why can’t we?’ They will not have an interest in demonstrating that we can succeed outside the European Union.”

Hammond issued the warning as efforts to win new EU membership terms gather pace before a Feb. 18-19 summit in Brussels. Prime Minister David Cameron is hoping to persuade the other 27 EU governments to endorse a deal, paving the way for a stay-or-leave referendum as early as June 23.

Hammond said there are still many “moving parts” in the renegotiation and the final details may only be decided at the summit.

‘To The Wire’

“There isn’t a deal yet, there is a working draft,” he said. “I have no doubt this will run right to the wire. If we can’t get the deal, we will carry on talking.”

The uphill task facing Cameron was underscored by a new poll showing only 21 percent of British voters expect him to get a good deal from his renegotiation. Fifty-eight percent doubted the package would be a success, and 45 percent had no idea whether they’d be personally better or worse off if Britain left the EU -- a so-called Brexit -- or stayed in, the survey by ComRes Ltd. found.

Polls show the outcome of a referendum is hard to call. Many in the ruling Conservative Party want to leave the EU and are unhappy with rules imposed by Cameron that would effectively gag them for several days after an EU deal is reached.

There are euroskeptics in the opposition Labour Party too. Lawmaker Gisela Stuart told the Andrew Marr show she’d be surprised if Cameron emerged with a deal that is “good enough” to support staying in the EU. “The bar he has set himself is exceptionally low,’ she said.

Hammond said he feared that if Britain leaves, it would be left having to negotiate new arrangements with a very different EU.

“Without Britain, Europe would lurch in very much the wrong direction,” he said. “Britain has been an enormously important influence in Europe, an influence for open markets for free trade. I think we would be dealing with a Europe that looked very much less in our image.”

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