Senior EU leaders are preparing the ground for a possible Brexit vote with high-level meetings aimed at a “plan B” future of the bloc without the UK, including closer co-operation on security and defence matters.
The leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and other core members are likely to “double down” on closer union, the Financial Times reported, amid concern that Brexit could encourage separatist sentiments in other EU states.
Officials expect a punitive approach to Britain, with an official meeting of 27 leaders – excluding David Cameron – expected shortly after a potential Brexit vote.
Senior Whitehall figures have identified EU leaders’ concerns over “contagion” of
anti-EU sentiment as a key reason why, despite the reassurances of Leave campaigners, the bloc will be unlikely to offer Britain a favourable trade deal in the event of Brexit. One senior civil servant said Berlin, Paris and Brussels would see the post-Brexit landscape as an “existential battle” to save the European project.
Officials in Paris have taken a hard line, with one senior figure telling the FT: “Playing down or minimising the consequences of [of leaving the EU] would put Europe at risk…the principle of consequences is important.”