Speaking at a discussion evening in Vienna organised by the Liberal Democrats in Austria, MP for the opposition party NEOS and party spokesperson on Europe Rainer Hable said that if the UK leaves it would “set a precedent” that the EU would fight against.
“The EU would have to prove that leaving the club is very bad. There would be no option of getting access to the common market. I would expect there would be a clear cut – a clear divorce,” he said.
Hable also argued that the EU project was initially a political one, not an economic one, and the commitment to an ever closer union that the UK is not part of is a critical aspect of the project.
“I would say the potential impact of Brexit on politics is maybe even more important than the economic side of things,” he said. “The EU is not just a free trade zone project. It's basic objective is political integration. I sometimes wonder whether you should let someone leave who doesn't share your objectives.”
His comments followed those from Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who said separately on Thursday that a Brexit vote could not be used to renegotiate a membership deal.
“An 'out' vote cannot and will not be used as leverage to get a better deal. If the UK votes in, the deal begins immediately. If it votes out, then the exit process begins,” he said, speaking at a forum organised by a German broadcaster WDR.
The European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has also separately warned Britain that will not share in the bloc's advantages if it decides to leave.