“Deserters” from the European Union will not be welcomed back with open arms, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned as Britain prepares to vote in a referendum on whether to stay in the bloc.
If Britain quits the EU it will have to get used to being considered an outsider, he told Le Monde in comments published on Friday (20 May).
“Deserters won’t be welcomed with open arms,” he said.
Britons will vote 23 June on whether or not to stay in the EU and the latest polls suggest the outcome is finely balanced.
“If the British were to say ‘no’ (to staying in the EU), which I am not hoping for, life in the (European) community won’t go on as before,” he warned.
“The United Kingdom will have to accept being considered a third party, who we won’t be bending over backwards for.
“If the British quit Europe, then we and they are going to have to accept the consequences from that.
“That is not a threat, but our relations will no longer be as they are today,” he added.
Asked what would happen if Britain voted to stay inside the EU, he said the first thing would be to apply the deal that Brussels had agreed with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
A draft deal to secure the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union has failed to deliver British demands for a total ban of four years on EU migrants claiming in-work benefits and for the bloc’s treaties to be rewritten.
No one had been talking about that during the referendum campaign, he added.
In February, Cameron thrashed out a reform deal with the EU which he said included significant concessions.
But the Brexit debate has divided Britain’s Conservative government with increasingly bitter exchanges between former political allies.