German opposition leader expects British EU exit

15th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A former German foreign minister, vice chancellor and one-time challenger to Angela Merkel for the country's top job said Britain will eventually leave the EU, in remarks on Thursday.

"I fear Britain has already taken the decisive step to leave the EU," Frank-Walter Steinmeier, currently the parliamentary group leader of the opposition Social Democrats, told the daily Rheinische Post.

"If the EU's regular format for meetings is a Europe of 26 without Britain that is a process of estrangement that is unavoidable and ultimately, irreversible."

The 17 eurozone countries agreed at an European Union summit in Brussels last week to more rigourous fiscal discipline as a way of battling the debt crisis and winning back market confidence.

Up to nine of the 10 other EU members that do not use the euro currency said they would consider joining the pact as well, leaving Britain as the lone holdout after it vetoed changes to the EU's existing treaty.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday that Britain's demands at the summit for its financial services industry to be exempted from EU regulation threatened to break up the single market.

Steinmeier served as vice chancellor and foreign minister under Merkel in a "grand coalition" government 2005 to 2009 and ran against her in the 2009 general election.

© 2011 AFP

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