A “leave” vote in the June 23 British referendum on continued European Union membership “will change Europe forever” and “for the worse,” the European Council president warned Wednesday.
Donald Tusk told the European Parliament in Brussels that there would be no second chance if Britons voted to exit the union.
Tusk said that he fully agreed with the British prime minister that “now is not the time to split the West.”
“The European Union will respect the decision of the British people. If the majority votes to leave, that is what will happen. It will change Europe forever,” he said. “And it will be a change for the worse. Of course, this is my personal opinion. [British] Prime Minister [David] Cameron said in the House of Commons on Monday that ‘now is not the time to split the West’. I couldn’t agree more.”
Tusk said that EU leaders agreed to a settlement that will take effect if the British people vote to stay in the EU.
“The 28 heads of state or government unanimously agreed and adopted a legally binding and irreversible settlement for the United Kingdom in the EU. The decision concerning a new settlement is in conformity with the treaties and cannot be annulled by the European Court of Justice,” he said.
Tusk’s comment followed a statement made by British Justice Secretary Michael Gove that Britain’s renegotiated terms for its membership in the EU could be undone by the court of justice, despite support from all member states.
Although a close friend and political ally of Cameron, Grove is a senior figure among British politicians who want Britain to leave the EU.
Tusk urged the European Parliament to approve the deal.
On the issue of Europe’s migrant and refugee crisis, Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the parliament that European Union leaders will hold a “special summit” with Turkey on March 7.
Turkey and the EU signed an agreement last November that Ankara would curb the number of refugees crossing into Greece in return for $3.2 billion in aid and for accelerating its EU membership bid.