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How Do Europeans Feel About Britain Possibly Leaving The EU?

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As the U.K. carries on its debate whether to leave the European Union, its fellow - for the moment - EU member countries are becoming more vocal about the consequences of a break. Let's talk now with Suzanne Lynch. She covers the European Union for the Irish Times. And she joined us by Skype from Brussels. Good morning.

SUZANNE LYNCH: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Some of the supporters in Britain of leaving the EU are suggesting the U.K. can retain some sort of favored trading status with Europe. What is the talk in Europe about that?

LYNCH: European leaders from the other 27 EU member states are very reluctant to give Britain any kind of special treatment. The message from here has very much been no means no. In saying that, what's going to happen if Britain does leave is that it's not going to leave straight away on the 24 of June, wake up and it's automatically left the European Union. The EU treaties do have a clause which says that if a country chooses to leave, then an article is invoked, and the process can take up to two years. Now, some people are saying that could take much, much longer. And what Britain is going to want is some kind of trade deal with Europe. Now, yes, European countries will want to engage in some kind of trade deal with Britain, but they are going to be reluctant to kind of make it easy for Britain, for fear that other countries who have strong Eurosceptic parties - that maybe they will try and follow Britain's lead, hold a referendum and also leave the European Union. So in a sense, they don't want to set - set a dangerous precedent here.

MONTAGNE: Although there is a precedent, which is Norway. It's not a member of the EU, but it does have special economic status. What would be wrong with that?

LYNCH: Yeah, a lot of people on the leave campaign have been citing Norway's example. But one of the crucial problems is that Norway - yes, it does have a special relationship with Europe, but it also has to take part in the EU's free-movement rules. I.E., it also has to accept immigrants from across Europe into its country. And as we know, that is one of the key concerns for British voters. So it is very uncertain whether Britain, after voting to leave the EU, would actually accept the free-movement rules that would come along with a deal such as Norway. Secondly, Norway also has to abide by all these EU regulations. Again, a lot of people on the leave campaign in Britain have said we need to get away from European regulations and red tape. So in a sense, the Norway model probably wouldn't work for Britain. It would be looking for something else.

MONTAGNE: You know, at the moment, there is a large Irish diaspora living in the U.K., and they are allowed to vote in the referendum. Have there been efforts from Irish political leaders to influence that voting block?

LYNCH: Yes, absolutely. It's very interesting. Irish people living in Britain are one of the few non-British people to have a vote in this referendum. And maybe between 400,000 and 500,000 people may be permitted to use their vote in the referendum. So the Irish government has been very much trying to push for a remain vote. There are fears that if Britain were to leave the European Union, well, then are we looking at a situation where a border may have to get built again - once again across Northern Ireland, separating Britain from Ireland? So I think the Irish government have a lot to lose if Britain leaves the European Union, and hence we've seen a huge campaign by Irish politicians.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much.

LYNCH: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Suzanne Lynch is the EU correspondent for the Irish Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.