MEPs examine consequences that Brexit could have on all of Europe

The European Parliamen in Strasbourg. (AP Photo/Patrick Seeger, Pool)

The European Parliamen in Strasbourg. (AP Photo/Patrick Seeger, Pool) - Credit: AP

Brexit is on the minds of politicians in Brussels. POLITICAL EDITOR ANNABELLE DICKSON visited the European Parliament to test the mood ahead of June 23.

A member of protocol arranges the British flag prior to the arrival of British Prime Minister David

A member of protocol arranges the British flag prior to the arrival of British Prime Minister David Cameron at the European Parliament in Brussels. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo) - Credit: AP

'You don't accept most European politics and don't participate in the politics, you mostly complain,' she tells me.

Her bemusement at our euroscepticism is shared by the German and Spanish MEPs I spoke to while in Brussels – but for the politicians there is a different tone.

There is fear (to varying degrees) about the impact a Brexit could have on the European project.

German socialist Dietmar Koster's warning echoes those of prime minister David Cameron who this week raised the prospect of a British exit from the European Union leading to conflict.


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Mr Koster's warning is stark: 'If we fall back into a policy where we only emphasise our national interest, this is a big danger because a lot of historians point out that one of the most important reasons for the two world wars was nationalism, especially German nationalism.

'If the majority of the people in Great Britain vote in favour of a Brexit then you have the danger of a domino effect. Other people would say, 'Well, the Great British government has the aim that it would be the best to think of their own national interest; why shouldn't the government in Italy and France think in the same way?'

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It is not just Britain which has seen a rising tide of eurosceptism.

In recent regional elections, Alternative for Deutchland made gains, and there are other anti-EU movements across the continent.

Mr Koster blames the austerity which has followed in the wake of the worldwide recession.

'Workers and unemployed people ask themselves what the advantages of staying are. These are the questions being asked in Germany too.

'This is an issue on which we have to work as European politicians as well as nationally,' he says.

'It is the wrong conclusion if people say, 'Well, I have suffered and my quality of life has deteriorated and therefore we have to vote against the EU'.'

Fellow German MEP David McAllister, an ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel and part of the European People's Party political grouping in Europe, is keen to emphasise that he is not lecturing the British people.

He is sympathetic to the British desire not to have closer political ties with other member states.

'I understand the British don't want to introduce the euro. If you are happy with the pound, keep the pound. If you believe in border controls, okay.'

But he acknowledges Britain's different geography. 'Germany is surrounded. All countries surrounding Germany are in Shengen [the area of no border controls].

'We don't have external borders really. Our external borders are in Greece and Italy.'

And, like Mr Koster's, his country's history weighs on his views.

'I don't believe in the concept of building fences and walls.

'That can't be the solution. We had a fence and a wall in our own country; we Germans know that it is more fascinating to tear down walls and tear down fences than build walls.'

Terry Reintke, a German Green MEP strikes a more optimistic tone.

She points to economic advantages for both Britain and the European Union, but also the emotional arguments.

'Ever since I have known the EU, Britain has been part of it and there has always been a bit of a special relationship.'

She is concerned the prime minister David Cameron miscalculated the situation and had not realised what he was getting into.

But her optimism is there if there is a strong vote to remain.

'There is hope that with a strong vote to stay, this might create a way to have long- term good constructive relations.'

Watch political editor Annabelle Dickson's photo diary at www.edp24.co.uk

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