Fears that other EU countries will not want to see UK succeed alone.
Britain will be punished by the EU for leaving, because other countries will not want to see it “succeed” alone, the country’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond has warned.
He delivered the stark message as he insisted negotiations over membership reforms will run “right to the wire” of a crunch summit in Brussels this week.
The comments, in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, came as the sides began ramping up their campaigns with just four months to go until the likely referendum date.
Two senior travel industry figures have cautioned that flight prices could rise and tourist safety could be compromised by Brexit.
Mr Hammond said there were still “a lot of moving parts” in the draft deal tabled by European Council president Donald Tusk, but the UK had already secured an exemption from “ever-closer union” and a “major breakthrough” on restricting migrant benefits.
Other EU states recognised Britain needs a “robust deal” in order to stay in.
“Until a few weeks ago people were telling us it was impossible to have any kind of period in which we treated newly-arrived migrants differently from people who were already here,” he said.
“But the text that is on the table recognises that there can be a period of four years in which people are treated differently. That is a major step forward.
“What we have still got to discuss is what that difference in treatment precisely is. I don’t think that is going to get resolved before Thursday.”
Mr Hammond said negotiations would go “right to the wire, with some of these things only being able to be decided by the heads of state and government on Thursday when they sit down in that room together”.
“If we can’t get the deal we will carry on talking.”
Challenged that the proposals on the table fell short of the Tory manifesto pledge of a four-year ban on migrants claiming in-work benefits, Mr Hammond said: “Let’s look at it in the round.
"There may be areas where we get more than we expected to get and areas where we get slightly less than we expected to get.”
Mr Hammond said he feared that if the UK left, it would have to forge new relationships with a very different EU.
“What I think I fear and many people in Europe fear is that without Britain, Europe would lurch in very much the wrong direction.
“Britain has been an enormously important influence in Europe, an influence for open markets for free trade.
“I think we would be dealing with a Europe that looked very much less in our image. I think the thing we have to remember is that there is a real fear in Europe that if Britain leaves, the contagion will spread.
“People who say we would do a great deal if we left, forget that the countries remaining in the EU will be looking over their shoulder at people in their own countries saying, ‘Well, if the Brits can do it, why can’t we?’.
"They will not have an interest in demonstrating that we can succeed outside the EU.”
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