Austrian Minister Urges Westminster To Forget Referendum Result

AFP/Emmanuel Dunand

The Austrian Finance Minister has urged UK parliamentarians to forget about the Brexit vote, and claims Northern Ireland and Scotland may leave the UK if Britain leaves the European Union (EU).

Austrian Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling, of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), told the media at a press conference in Brussels earlier this week: “If you look at other countries, you can change these decisions by parliament. And I hope the wisdom of the parliamentarians will give a new guidance for leaving, and not to make a Brexit.”

According to Mr. Schelling the record turn out at the referendum, and subsequent vote to leave, should not force the British parliament to actually leave the EU, The Local reports.

The comments come hot on the heels of a statement Mr. Schelling made to German press last week in which he said: “Scotland, Northern Ireland are not going; they are likely to remain in the Union and Great Britain will probably become Little Britain.”

Mr. Schelling has called on new Prime Minister Teresa May to make a “fast decision” on the matter, claiming that the uncertainty in the markets across Europe could have dire impact on many countries like Italy who are only recently coming out of recession.

“Some people in Great Britain are thinking about ‘Was it our fault or not?’, but it was a decision by the inhabitants of Great Britain,” he said adding that he welcomed the arrival of the new Prime Minister who took over from David Cameron on Wednesday.

Reaction to the Brexit vote has been critical across the Austrian mainstream political landscape with politicians like Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ulrike Lunacek condemning the leave vote and taking a harsh stance on UK negotiations to leave the political bloc.

Ms. Lunacek said: “We have so many other crises we’re facing at the moment. We need to convince citizens again that the European Union is there for them not the other way around. I do not see that any special privileges can be given to the UK because of their decision.”

The Austrian MEP also mentioned that the UK could not opt out of the free movement of people if the country wants the economic benefits of tariff-free access to the EU. “It can only be something that already exists like the European Economic Area – also having to pay but no way of influencing the decision making,” she asserted.

The Brexit vote was not scorned by everyone in the Austrian political scene as the anti-mass migration Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) saw the result as a wake up call for Brussels and a catalyst to potentially reform the Union.

The FPÖ politician Norbert Hofer, who will stand for president again after the annulled election in May, said he could even see an Austrian referendum on EU membership “if it develops into a centralist Union, rather than to reclaim the real core values”.


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