BERLIN (Reuters) - Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling told a German newspaper he expected Britain to remain a member of the European Union despite the June 23 referendum in which Britons voted to quit the bloc.
Schelling also said the EU should respond to the referendum result by reforming itself and by focusing on key issues such as the single market, climate change and security while leaving member states to deal with other topics.
“Britain will remain a member of the EU in the future,” he was quoted as saying in an English excerpt of an interview due to be published in Handelsblatt on Tuesday.
“In five years, there will still be 28 member states,” he said, noting that the impact of the Brexit vote on companies and financial markets had shocked Britain.
Some banks and firms have signalled they may move operations to continental Europe to secure continued unhindered access to the EU’s single market, while the pound has been battered in currency markets amid fears of prolonged economic uncertainty.
“When you look at all of those (companies) who want to move to the EU, it’s a wake-up call for Britain not to leave in the end,” he said.
In a full version of the interview in German on Handelsblatt’s website, Schelling said another option was for Britain to remain in the EU and not even apply to quit.
The longer the uncertainty over Britain’s future relations with the EU lasts, Schelling said, the more unnerved markets and people will become and therefore the more damaging it will be both for Europe and especially for Britain.
The contenders to replace outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron, including those who backed the ‘remain’ camp, have said they will honour the result of the vote and have ruled out holding a second referendum.
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Gareth Jones
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