EU 'strong enough' to survive Brexit: Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel after delivering a government declaration on Brexit at the German Bundestag Parliament on June 28, 2016.
Angela Merkel after delivering a government declaration on Brexit at the German Bundestag Parliament on June 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

Berlin (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday (June 28) that the EU could survive a Brexit and warned Britain the union would not tolerate "cherry-picking' in upcoming negotiations on their future relations.

"The EU is strong enough to withstand Britain's withdrawal," she told parliament ahead of a crisis summit of the 28 member states in Brussels.

"It is also strong enough to successfully defend its interests in the world in future." Expressing strong confidence in the union as it confronts the first defection since its founding, Merkel said the EU would continue to be a guarantor of "peace, prosperity and stability" in Europe.

She again expressed her regret that Britain had voted in a referendum last week to quit the bloc but underlined that it would not be able to dictate the terms of its ties to the EU.

"We will ensure there are no negotiations based on the principle of cherry-picking," she said to applause.

"There must be and will be a noticeable difference between whether a country wants to be a member of the European Union family or not." She added: "Anyone wishing to leave this family cannot expect to lose all the obligations but keep the privileges." Merkel also said access to Europe's common market depends on "accepting Europe's fundamental freedoms and the other rules and commitments that go with it".

"This applies to Britain as it does to everyone else," she said.

A non-EU country can join the common market if its accepts the freedoms of people, goods, services and capital, she added, mentioning the example of Norway.

Merkel, who had huddled with the leaders of France and Italy Monday in the aftermath of the shock referendum, said the three biggest economies on the continent had agreed on a "common position" on the approach to the Brexit vote.

She said she hoped the Brussels summit would take place in that spirit of unity, and said the EU's goal should aim to complete reforms of the bloc in time for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty laying its foundations in March 2017.