April 28, 2016 / 11:38 AM / a year ago

Don't pressure Britain before EU vote, German foreign minister warns

A British Union flag and an European Union flag are seen flying above offices in London, Britain, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier cautioned on Thursday against piling pressure on Britain in the run-up to the country’s referendum on European Union membership in June.

“I don’t think we’d be well advised to issue threats from Europe,” Steinmeier said in Berlin. “There’s no doubt that the Brits know what their interests are and they are aware of the economic disadvantages that would result from leaving the EU.”

Global economic bodies have in recent weeks spelled out what they calculate to be the financial consequences of an exit, while U.S. President Barack Obama said last Friday Britain would be “in the back of the queue” for a trade deal if it left..

Despite the chorus of warnings, polls suggest the June 23 referendum could still go either way.

Steinmeier’s tone also differed from that of lawmakers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, who stressed on Tuesday that Britain should not get special treatment from the EU in the event of Brexit.

The German government has repeatedly made clear it wants Britain to remain, a stance Steinmeier, a member of the co-governing Social Democrats, echoed on Thursday.

“I don’t want to imagine a Europe without Great Britain,” he said.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michelle Martin; editing by John Stonestreet

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