German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the UK that countries “at the bargaining table” negotiate better deals than those “outside the room”.
Mrs Merkel said it was a decision for the British people, but she hoped the UK would vote to stay in the European Union in the referendum on 23 June.
She said the UK as “part and parcel” of the EU was of “benefit to all of us”.
Leave campaigners said staying in might be in Germany’s interest but that “does not mean it’s in the UK’s interest”.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the intervention was interesting because a few weeks ago German sources were saying privately that Mrs Merkel wasn’t minded to say anything about the referendum.
Speaking during a news conference with Nato General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin, Mrs Merkel said: “Obviously, it is up to the citizens of the UK themselves how they wish to vote on the upcoming referendum. I’ve said repeatedly before that I personally would hope and wish for the UK to stay part and parcel of the EU.”
Angela Merkel has been reluctant to intervene in the referendum debate. She’s made no secret of the fact that she wants Britain to stay in the EU; it’s an important economic and political ally for Germany.
But she’s understood to be concerned about how any comments might be interpreted by British voters. Which is why today’s intervention is interesting. Mrs Merkel was relatively cautious. She was careful to emphasise that this is, after all, a British decision.
And then – in characteristically guarded language – a warning. The EU, she said, would never compromise with an outsider in the same way it would with a member state.
Mrs Merkel’s comments may have been timed to coincide with those of other European leaders who’ve made it plain that they’d be in no hurry in the event of a Brexit to help the UK renegotiate rights and access. But her intervention certainly reflects a growing unease in Berlin that a Brexit has become a realistic possibility.