The Latest: German FM says British exit would shake EU

LONDON – The Latest on Britain’s popular vote on whether to remain in the European Union (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says the European Union would be shaken by a British vote to leave and would have to ensure that it didn’t ultimately lead toward the bloc’s disintegration.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting his French counterpart in the German city of Brandenburg on Wednesday that if Britain goes “things wouldn’t just carry on as 28 minus one the following day.”

He said that “it would shake the European Union (and) we would have to assure each other that the European Union continues to stick together — and that a very successful, decades-long integration process does not in the end turn to disintegration.”

Britain votes in a June 23 referendum on whether to remain in the 28-nation EU.


3:15 p.m.

Engineering giant Rolls Royce has issued a letter to its 23,000 employees warning that Britain leaving the European Union would be bad for business.

Chief Executive Warren East says it would be “better for employees, customers and suppliers” if there was a “remain” vote.

East told the BBC on Friday that the uncertainty of an exit from the EU would be unsettling because it limits a company’s ability to plan and to budget for the future.

He said that “Our U.S. competitors don’t have to cope with that uncertainty,” and that decisions about where to invest were being put on hold.

He told employees that whatever the outcome of June 23 referendum, the company planned to remain in the U.K.

Its major European customers include Airbus, Lufthansa, Air France and IAG/British Airways.


12:40 p.m.

A flotilla of boats has sailed up the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament as part of a campaign backing Britain’s exit from the European Union.

U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage joined one of some 30 vessels protesting EU fishing polices.

Farage’s vessel was greeted by boats carrying “remain” supporters, including rock star philanthropist Bob Geldof, who launched a verbal barrage telling Farage he was a “fraud,” and that he should “go back down the river because you are up one without a canoe or a paddle.”

Geldof said: “You are no fisherman’s friend.”

Farage described Geldof’s protest as disgusting. He argued EU membership had “destroyed our industry” because of access to a common resource. He said: “We want our waters back.”


12:05 p.m.

The Dutch mass circulation newspaper AD appealed to the British electorate in its Wednesday edition, with the headline: “Don’t leave me this way.”

With a week to go before Britons vote on whether to stay in the European Union and the “leave” side gaining momentum, continental media are making their opinions clear.

“Those Brits, they can be such a nuisance. But we don’t want to and can’t do without them,” the paper wrote on a background of the Union Jack.

It said: “The Beatles, Bridget Jones, One Direction, EastEnders, Brideshead Rivisited, we love it all. Many of us know Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch by heart.”

It added that “An EU without the U.K. would be like tea without milk. Bitter. So please, stay. Stay with us.”

Last weekend, German magazine Der Spiegel had a British flag on the front page and the words “Please don’t go.” It included 23 pages in English.

The problem for AD and Der Spiegel is few people read them in Britain, whether in English translation or not.


11:20 a.m.

Germany’s defence minister says she fears the European Union’s balance could be affected if Britain decides to leave.

Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview with the weekly Die Zeit published Wednesday that the EU needs a mixture of grand ideas, passionate defence of European ideals, pragmatic solutions and doubts to succeed.

She was quoted as saying: “The Germans tend toward enthusiasm on European questions, the French toward grand pathos, the Italians impress with their ability to improvise — the British ground all that with their skepticism, understatement and terrific pragmatism.”

Von der Leyen added that “if the British leave the EU, lofty ideas would dominate,” and the bloc could have trouble staying down-to-earth.

The minister added that Britain “has in Europe a lever to increase its influence.”