Hard Brexit to cost German car industry jobs: study

A “hard Brexit,” meaning the UK’s departure from the European Union’s single market as well as customs union, would result in thousands of job losses in the German automotive industry, says a new study.

England London Brexit Nationalflaggen vor Big Ben (Getty Images/AFP/G. Kirk)

German and European carmakers could see their revenues decline by as much as 20 percent in the event of the UK leaving the EU’s single market and customs union entirely, concluded a new study released Thursday by the consulting firm Deloitte.

The UK is an extremely important market for German automakers. About a fifth of Germany’s automotive exports are shipped to Great Britain. In 2016, around 950,000 newly registered vehicles in the UK were made in Germany.

It is estimated that as many as 60,000 automotive jobs in Germany are dependent on exports to the UK. Deloitte’s researchers projected that about 18,000 of them would be threatened by a hard Brexit.

Watch video01:48

Formal Brexit talks have started between the EU and the UK

A weakened British pound, they said, would increase the price of German-made cars while decreasing the purchasing power of the British buyer, leading to a drop in demand. Customs duties would raise the car price even higher, with the study estimating that vehicles made in Germany could cost as much as 21 percent more than they do now in the UK.

Big losses

The report noted that car manufacturers based in continental Europe would be the biggest losers from such a scenario.

It said that although firms based in the UK and those from other non-EU countries would be able to gain some market share in the short term, they would not be able to benefit from the situation in the long run. That’s because their production costs would increase as they rely on suppliers based in the EU, whose parts would become pricier, the authors argued.

Formal talks about the British departure from the European Union began this week, with the UK’s Brexit Minister David Davis stressing that Britain would have to quit the bloc’s common market and customs union to ensure the return of full sovereignty.

Read: German firms warn Brexit will ‘seriously damage’ UK business

The clock is ticking for Britain’s exit from the bloc as Article 50 sets out a strict two year timetable. That means a deal will have to be agreed by March 2019, failing which Britain would fall back on World Trade Organization rules, which could result in higher export tariffs and other barriers.

Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an automotive industry body, this week urged the government to agree on an interim Brexit trade deal, calling for Britain to keep membership of the European single market and customs union until a final Brexit deal has been signed.

sri/bea (dpa, AFP)

 

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British government in crisis as Brexit talks loom

Theresa May’s poor election showing has put Britain in a tough spot. While the prime minister is attempting to form a government, EU leaders have said they do not want to extend the deadline for Brexit talks.

Großbritannien Theresa May Gottesdienst in Sonning (Reuters/N. Hall)

When Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March, thus beginning the formal process of Britain’s exit from the European Union, she did not realize she would soon be fighting for her political life.

Article 50, which was not designed to make things easy for the country exiting the EU, sets a strict two-year timeline for talks, giving Britain until March 2019 to conclude discussions. EU leaders have indicated they do not want to extend this deadline: “We don’t know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end,” Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, tweeted on Friday.

Talks had been expected to begin on June 19. But after Britain’s shock election result on June 9, in which the Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority, that looks increasingly unrealistic.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the UK government enters these negotiations tremendously diminished, and the absence of a clear mandate risks further destabilizing what was already likely to be a difficult, complex process,” Sophie Gaston, head of international projects at the think tank Demos, told DW. “Triggering Article 50 before an election was grossly arrogant and has left the country in a highly vulnerable position. We can delay the start date for talks as long as we wish, but the clock will not stop ticking on their end date.”

Minority report

May is seeking an arrangement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that would shore up the Conservatives as a minority government, but that still hangs in the balance. Downing Street is presently unable to confirm whether it will be able to produce a Queens Speech – in which the government sets out a legislative program – on Monday.

Arlene Foster, Parteichefin der nordirischen DUP und Theresa May (picture-alliance/empics/C. McQuillan)May is seeking a minority government with the DUP

While negotiations over a deal with the DUP continue, May has completed a cabinet reshuffle, bringing back her adversary – and leading Brexiteer – Michael Gove to the frontbench, in the position of environment secretary. Many other key roles, such as Amber Rudd as home secretary and Phillip Hammond as chancellor of the exchequer, remained unchanged.

“The reshuffle is about creating a sense of continuity – minimal upheaval and bringing in a few other ‘safe pairs of hands’ to the Cabinet,” said Gaston. “The Conservative Party is understandably nervous about fighting another election, so it needs to minimize disruption and avoid polarizing figures.”

At the moment, senior members of the cabinet and the influential 1922 Committee of backbenchers are all desperate to avoid an immediate election and to get started on Brexit talks. But operating as a minority government has pragmatic ramifications. “There’s a hugely important practical impact to this diminishment,” said BBC journalist Mark Mardell. “Any minority government is hostage to the whim of MPs.”

Unclear path

It is so far unclear what effect the Conservatives’ reduced parliamentary position will have on Brexit negotiations. Some commentators have interpreted the election result as a rejection of May’s approach so far – but it is a mixed picture.

“Parliaments without majorities are more prone to politicking and point-scoring than most,” Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, an organization representing business leaders, told DW. “If we do indeed see a minority government, both sides of the aisle must swallow their pride and work on a cross-party basis on the most important issues. The last thing business needs is a parliament in paralysis, and the consequences for British businesses and for the UK as an investment destination would be severe.”

Despite the enormity of the constitutional challenge facing Britain, cross-party collaboration does not seem to be on the agenda, with partisan animosity soaring. “It would be hugely helpful for the country as a whole to have the best minds working together – but the insecurities and opportunities this chaotic outcome presents to both the Conservatives and Labour means there will strong voices from both sides to favor partisanship,” said Gaston.

While May struggles to stay in office, questions have been raised about her ability to carry Britain through this period. “The damage that will be caused by Brexit will be more directly caused by May’s sequence of bad decisions than by the actual referendum result,” lawyer and legal commentator David Allen Green told DW. “The UK is now three months into the Article 50 process and it seems we are in a worse position because of May’s frolic of a general election than when the UK made the notification.”

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May to form ‘government of certainty’ with DUP backing

Media captionTheresa May says she’ll “reflect on what we need to do to take the party forward”

Theresa May has said she will put together a government with the support of the Democratic Unionists that can provide “certainty” for the future.

Speaking after visiting Buckingham Palace, she said only her party had the “legitimacy” to govern, despite falling eight seats short of a majority.

Later, she said she “obviously wanted a different result” and was “sorry” for colleagues who lost their seats.

But Labour said they were the “real winners”.

The Lib Dems said Mrs May should be “ashamed” of carrying on.

The Tories needed 326 seats to win another majority but, with 649 out of the 650 seats declared, they fell short and must rely on the DUP to continue to rule.

In a short statement outside Downing Street, which followed a 25-minute audience with The Queen, Mrs May said she would join with her DUP “friends” to “get to work” on Brexit.

She said she intended to form a government which could “provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country”.

Referring to the “strong relationship” she had with the DUP but giving little detail of how their arrangement might work, she said the government would “guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks” that begin in just 10 days’ time.

“Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years,” she said.

“And this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”

Theresa May speaks to the nation outside Downing StreetImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMrs May’s husband was at her side as she addressed the nation
Mrs May's car leaves Buckingham PalaceImage copyrightPA
Image captionThe PM earlier visited Buckingham Palace

Later, she told reporters that she “wanted to achieve a larger majority but that was not the result”.

“I’m sorry for all those candidates… who weren’t successful, and also particularly sorry for MPs and ministers who’d contributed so much to our country, and who lost their seats and didn’t deserve to lose their seats.

“As I reflect on the results, I will reflect on what I need to do in the future to take the party forward.”

A cabinet reshuffle, expected later today, looks likely to be pushed back to Saturday, says BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier.

Sources have told the BBC that Boris Johnson is expected to stay as foreign secretary, Philip Hammond as chancellor, and Amber Rudd as home secretary.

Those rarely seen on the campaign trail, including Andrea Leadsom, Priti Patel and Liam Fox, could be out, says our correspondent. Comebacks from Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and prominent leave campaigner Dominic Raab were being floated, she adds.

DUP leader Arlene Foster confirmed that she had spoken to Mrs May and that they would speak further to “explore how it may be possible to bring stability to this nation at this time of great challenge”.

While always striving for the “best deal” for Northern Ireland and its people, she said her party would always have the best interests of the UK at heart.

Media caption“The union is our guiding star” – DUP’s Arlene Foster

It is thought Mrs May will seek some kind of informal arrangement with the DUP that could see it “lend” its support to the Tories on a vote-by-vote basis, known as “confidence and supply”.

Conservative MP Dominic Raab said the country needed “certainty and direction”, and an agreement between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party was the “only viable option”.

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said the PM had returned to No 10 a “diminished figure”, having ended up with 12 fewer seats than when she called the election in April.

Media captionJeremy Corbyn: An “incredible result” for the Labour party

She had called the election with the stated reason that it would strengthen her hand in negotiations for the UK to leave the EU – the talks are due to start on 19 June.

But with the London seat of Kensington yet to declare, the Tories are on 318 seats, ahead of Labour on 261, the SNP 35 and the Lib Dems on 12. The DUP won 10 seats.

As it stands, the Tories and the DUP would have 328 MPs in the Commons, giving it a wafer-thin majority although as Sinn Fein will not be taking its seven seats, the new administration will have slightly more room for manoeuvre.

Hung parliament

The Conservatives have argued in the event of a hung Parliament, Mrs May gets the opportunity to form a government first, as her predecessor David Cameron did in 2010 when there was also no clear winner but the party had comfortably more seats than their nearest rival.

Labour has said it is also ready to form a minority government of its own, after far exceeding expectations by picking up 29 seats in England, Wales and Scotland.

But even if it joined together in a so-called progressive alliance with the SNP, Lib Dems, Green Party and Plaid Cymru, it would only reach 313 seats – well short of the 326 figure needed.

Mrs May has faced calls to quit from within her own party, with Anna Soubry saying she should consider her position after a “disastrous” campaign.

However, other MPs have urged her to stay on, with Iain Duncan Smith saying a leadership contest would be a “catastrophe”.

Media captionUKIP’s Paul Nuttall: “I am standing down with immediate effect”

The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith said the DUP did not regard Mrs May as a “permanent fixture” and this raised the possibility of a change in leader in the summer, given that he believed serious progress over Brexit was unlikely to be made before the German parliamentary elections in September.

Reacting to the result, European Council president Donald Tusk said there was now “no time to lose” over Brexit, while the European Parliament’s chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said it was an “own goal” and made negotiations more “complicated”.

Mr Corbyn, speaking after being re-elected in Islington North, said it was time for Mrs May to “make way” for a government that would be “truly representative of the people of this country”. He later told the BBC it was “pretty clear who has won this election”.

“We are ready to serve the people who have put their trust in us,” he said – but he also stressed he would not enter into any “pacts or deals” with other parties.

Unite union leader Len McCluskey said Labour’s result was “an incredible advance” and it would not be long before they were in government.

The Green Party, which held its one seat at the election but saw its total vote halve, said a Conservative government propped up by the DUP would be a “coalition of chaos”.

In other major developments:

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, which gained three seats taking its total to seven, said it had been a “very good election for republicanism”, and appealed for “calm reflection” on how to go forward.

Lord O’Donnell, formerly the UK’s top civil servant, told the BBC that the prime minister had a duty to stay in post “for now” and had the right to seek the confidence of the House of Commons by asking it to approve a Queen’s Speech on 19 June.

Meanwhile, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has quit after his party failed to win any seats and saw its vote collapse across the country.

Media captionNicola Sturgeon says the SNP ‘will listen to voters’

In a night of high drama, the SNP remained the largest party in Scotland but lost 21 seats to the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems. Leading figures in the party such as Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson were defeated.

Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also lost his seat while Tim Farron clung on by less than 800 votes in his Cumbrian constituency.

But Vince Cable and Jo Swinson are among the Lib Dems returning to the Commons after winning their former seats back.

In more results from the night:

Speaking after a mixed night of results for his party, Mr Farron paid tribute to Mr Clegg and the other MPs who lost their seats.

Mrs May had “put the future of the country at risk with arrogance and vanity”, he added, saying she should resign “if she has an ounce of self respect”.

Reports: British Prime Minister Theresa May plans migration curbs

Non-EU migrants could find it harder to enter Britain under policies outlined in a pre-election manifesto drafted by the prime minister’s Conservatives. The document is being published ahead of a June 8 snap election.

Großbritannien Theresa May startet ihre Wahlkampagne (Reuters/P. Noble)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday urged voters to “strengthen my hand” in Brexit talks, as she unveiled the Conservative manifesto. May reiterated that Britain would be leaving the European single market and the customs union and warned of “tricky battles” over the next two years as the country negotiates its departure from the EU.

“Every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand in the negotiations to come,” May said at the launch in Halifax in northern England, calling it “a manifesto to see us through Brexit and beyond.”

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“If we fail, the consequences for Britain and for the economic security of ordinary working people will be dire. If we succeed, the opportunities ahead of us are great,” May said, as dozens of anti-austerity campaigners and trade unionists rallied outside.

“It is time to put the old tribal politics behind us and to come together in the national interest, united in our desire to make a success of Brexit,” May said.

Watch video02:48

Coventry’s Brexit woes

Mainstream British media said on Wednesday that May would pitch immigration strictures and trim certain welfare benefits for pensioners when she unveiled her pledges later Thursday for Britain’s snap June 8 election.

Employers seeking non-EU workers for skilled jobs would face a doubling of the so-called skills charge and migrant workers would be asked to pay more into the National Health Service, according to the BBC.

The extra revenue gathered would flow into skills training for British workers.

The skills charge sees companies fined when they employ migrants from outside the EU.

The BBC said May is also planning to implement a reduction of immigration from EU nations, once Britain has finalized its divorce from the bloc.

That amounted to the “end of freedom of movement, ” a key tenet of open-borders Europe, said the BBC, quoting an unnamed source.

Addressing a G20 trade union meeting in Berlin on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Britain that ending free movement of people “will have its price.”

Merkel said London should not attempt to stipulate “there’s a cap of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens, more aren’t allowed into Britain – perhaps researchers as well, but no others, please.”

May outlines other pledges

May said she would also tighten laws on company takeovers and would ensure any foreign group buying important infrastructure did not undermine security or essential services if she wins next month’s election.

“We will require bidders to be clear about their intentions from the outset of the bid process; that all promises and undertakings made in the course of takeover bids can be legally enforced afterwards; and that the government can require a bid to be paused to allow greater scrutiny,” the Conservative Party said in its election policy document on Thursday.

May also said that when the current triple lock system governing the rates of state pensions expires in 2020, a new double lock system will be introduced instead. She said the double lock would mean pensions would rise in line with earnings or inflation, whichever was highest.

May said now was not the time for another Scottish independence referendum and one should not take place until the Brexit process has played out.

May added that she would increase spending on the state-run National Health Service by at least 8 billion pounds over the next five years and hike the migrant health surcharge. The Conservative election policy document also said it would prioritize the issue of the 140,000 nationals from other EU countries who work in the health system.

Writing in The Sun newspaper, May said she was “determined to cut the cost of living for ordinary working families, keep taxes low and to intervene when markets are not working as they should.”

The Telegraph newspaper said May would also stick to the conservative government’s pledge to cut the corporation tax to 17 percent by 2020.

People who currently receive free care in their home would be charged more, and funding for universal free school lunches for young children would be diverted to other educational tasks.

The ruling Conservative Party received 4.1 million pounds ($5.35 million) of donations in the first week of the campaign, the watchdog Electoral Commission said on Thursday. That compares to 2.7 million pounds for the main opposition Labour Party.

May heads into the election against the opposition center-left Labour with opinion surveys indicating that she could win by a landslide.

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Battle with Brussels: Theresa May accuses EU of trying to influence general election (VIDEO)

In her toughest words yet, Prime Minister Theresa May has accused European officials of trying to influence the result of Britain’s general election with threats of harsh Brexit terms.

Speaking outside Downing Street on Wednesday, May adopted a tough tone, saying eurocrats do not want the talks to succeed and for Britain to “prosper” after Brexit. She also suggested that Britain’s negotiating position has been misrepresented in the European press.

“In the past few days we have seen just how tough these talks are likely to be. Britain’s negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press.

“The European commission’s negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials. All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on June 8.”

She added: “The events of the last few days have shown that whatever our wishes and however reasonable the positions of Europe’s other leaders, there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed and who do not want Britain to prosper.”

She appeared to be referring to leaks in a German newspaper about her now infamous dinner meeting at Downing Street last week with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

According to Frankfurter Allgemeine, May and Juncker “clashed” over a number issues, with the eurocrat quoted as saying he was “10 times more skeptical than I was before.”

May initially dismissed the leaks as Brussels gossip, though reportedly said she could be a “bloody difficult woman.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May is playing “games with Brexit in the hope of winning advantage for the Tories.”

“By winding up the public confrontation with Brussels, the Prime Minister wants to wrap the Conservative party in the Union Jack and distract attention from her government’s economic failure and rundown of our public services.

“But Brexit is too important to be used as a political game in this election.

“These are vital negotiations for every person in Britain and for the future of our country. But Theresa May is putting party interest ahead of the national interest.”

He added: “Only Labour can be trusted to negotiate a Brexit deal that puts jobs and living standards first. Labour will negotiate a Brexit for the many not the few.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has accused May of poisoning the atmosphere of the Brexit talks and called her speech “deeply irresponsible.”

Apologies for failing to thread those last tweets – here they are in one place.

Despite her defiant words outside Downing Street on Wednesday, May also insisted: “Britain means no harm to our friends and allies. We want a deep and special partnership with the EU, and we want the EU to succeed.”

I’ve always been ready for the possibility of nuclear war. I just never thought it would be with Belgium.

Britain’s economic future now a pawn in @theresa_may election game playing. Gross stuff

In a statement issued following a meeting the Queen to mark the dissolution of parliament, May said the winner of the election would face “one overriding task” – getting the “best possible deal” for the UK.

Beyond her unexpected verbal attack on unnamed figures in Brussels, May also used the opportunity to hit out at her political opponents in Britain.

“While there is enormous opportunity for Britain as we leave the European Union, if we do not get this right, the consequences will be serious.

“And they will be felt by ordinary, working people across the country. This Brexit negotiation is central to everything. If we don’t get the negotiation right, your economic security and prosperity will be put at risk and the opportunities you seek for your families will simply not happen.

“If we don’t get the negotiation right, if we let the bureaucrats of Brussels run over us, we will lose the chance to build a fairer society with real opportunity for all.”

She added that voters face a “very simple” choice on June 8 between her and a “coalition of chaos” led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“With me you will get a strong and stable leadership … or you will get Jeremy Corbyn with a hung parliament and a coalition of chaos.”

Her comments come after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said talks would not be concluded “quickly and painlessly.”

Unveiling his first detailed vision of how talks with the UK will take shape in Brussels, Michel Barnier set down a series of tough EU demands on citizens’ rights and a hefty financial settlement he says is just about settling accounts.

He said Britain would have to honor its financial commitments and hinted that would entail paying for a number of EU programs, citing the example of aid pledges Brussels has made to Ukraine. He insisted the “divorce bill” was not a punishment for the UK leaving.

Barnier’s demands on the rights of citizens – which cover Europeans currently living in the UK but also those who have done so in the past and will in the future – are likely to cause serious issues for Prime Minister Theresa May, who has pledged to end freedom of movement.

Relations between the two sides have soured over the past few days.

On Tuesday, Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator, trolled May on Twitter over her “strong and stable” leadership.

Theresa May turns combative ahead of Brexit negotiations

Days after waxing lyrical about the “special relationship” between the UK and the EU, the British premier has hardened her tone. The change came after Angela Merkel said the UK was suffering illusions over its future.

Großbritannien Wahlkampf Theresa May (picture-alliance/dpa/PA Wire/A. Devlin)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday accused European Union member states of lining up to oppose Britain ahead of the release of the EU’s negotiating position on Brexit.

“We’ve seen from Chancellor Merkel today, we’ve heard her comments today. We’ve seen that actually there will be times when these negotiations are going to get tough,” May was quoted as saying by the BBC while speaking at a campaign rally in the Labour stronghold of Leeds ahead of the snap general election she called for June.

“Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations – at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us,” she said.

“That approach can only mean one thing – uncertainty and instability, bringing grave risk to our growing economy with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt,”

May’s combative comments came just days after dining with EU Brexit negotiators and saying the UK had a “commitment to achieving a deep and special partnership with the European Union.”

British illusions

May was responding to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning to the UK on Thursday against “illusions” over the exit process.

Merkel stressed in parliament that “a third-party state will not have the same rights or even superior rights to a member state,” referring to the relationship the EU has with non-EU countries such Switzerland and Norway.

“This may sound self-evident, but I have to say this clearly because some in Britain seem to have illusions on this point,” she said. “That would be a waste of time.”

Watch video00:25

Merkel’s statement on Brexit

EU presents unified front

EU ministers met in Luxembourg on Thursday to underscore their unity ahead of Saturday’s meeting to approve their negotiation position.

“It seems that at the moment we are completely united on everything,” said Vice Premier Louis Grech of Malta, the country that holds the rotating EU presidency. “Naturally we have to protect the EU’s interests.”

He said a prime objective was “to ensure that we will conduct the negotiations in a spirit of unity and trust between the 27.”

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that “we are united.”

Saturday’s EU’s guidelines will inform a tight negotiating mandate for Barnier which should be ready by May 22.

60 billion euro bill

The EU is expected to push on issues such as the treatment of EU expats, the bill of remaining costs to be paid by Britain and border issues in Ireland.

Some reports claim the EU could hold Britain liable for costs until at least a year after it leaves, at a possible cost of 60 billion euros (US$65 billion).

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded angrily to those claims.

“If you’re saying that they want the money before they get any substantive talks, then that is obviously not going to happen,” he told the BBC.

Northern Ireland

Ireland was expected to push for automatic membership of Northern Ireland to the EU if the two ever reunified.

German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine” reported on Thursday that rental payments from the EU medicines agency in London could also become a sticking point in negotiations.  The lease agreement of the EU authority was reportedly signed until 2039, according to a document from the European Parliament, and could cost 347.6 million euros. Various EU members are seeking to be the new home of the institution.

Negotiations will likely start after Britain’s June 8 election, in which May is seeking to crush a weakened Labour party.

Watch video26:00

Nigel Farage on Conflict Zone

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Merkel warns against British ‘illusions’ as Brexit negotiations begin

In an address to the Bundestag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked tough ahead of Saturday’s EU-27 summit on Brexit. The UK, she said, would not be as well positioned as EU member states.

Angela Merkel Regierungserklärung Berlin (Reuters/H.Hanschke)

Ahead of a meeting of the 27 remaining European Union nations in Brussels on Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel briefed the German parliament, the Bundestag, about Germany’s strategy vis-a-vis Brexit. But at least in part her message was aimed across the English Channel.

The chancellor warned London not to expect a deal that would privilege the UK.

“A third-party state cannot enjoy the same advantages or be better positioned than an EU member state,” Merkel said. “I have the feeling that some people in Britain maintain illusions in this regard. They’re wasting their time.”

That line drew applause from members of the Bundestag. Merkel reiterated that negotiators would have to resolve the details of Britain’s exit from the EU, including financial obligations that could extend beyond Britain’s departure, before any deals could be struck about a future English-EU relationship.

as third country ‘can and will not have the same rights’ as -member, says on . ‘No illusions’ but fair negotiations.

“These steps must happen in that order,” Merkel said. “Our goal is to get the best deal for Europe and its citizens.”

Merkel added that negotiations could only commence in earnest after the United Kingdom’s parliamentary election on June 8.

Expats high on the agenda 

Not all of Merkel’s remarks focused on the potential conflicts of interest between the EU and the UK. The chancellor also said that Germany and the EU had an interest in a strong and prosperous Britain.

She said one of her priorities was to clear up the future status of the approximately 100,000 German citizens permanently living in Britain. In return, Germany and the EU were prepared to offer British expatriates in the bloc a “fair deal.”

London Imbiss deutsche Würstchen (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gentsch)It’s unclear how the EU will trade with a post-Brexit UK

Merkel also expressed confidence that the EU and post-Brexit Britain shared interests in businesses being able to sell their products to the other and fighting against terrorism and organized crime.

At the same time, the EU showed a high degree of solidarity in the wake of the British referendum in June 2016, in which a slight majority of UK voters supported the Brexit, Merkel added. Specifically naming Ireland, she said that it was a sign of European strength that none of the individual EU-27 states had engaged in “preliminary negotiations” with London.

A disintegrating EU?

Speaking for the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partners with Merkel’s conservatives in the government, Thomas Oppermann said: “I’m glad that within the coalition we have consensus on this issue.”

 Sahra Wagenknecht Berlin Bundestag (Reuters/H.Hanschke)The Left Party’s Wagenknecht said Merkel was trying to strong-arm the UK

But Sahra Wagenknecht of the opposition Left Party accused Merkel’s government of trying to “punish” the UK and of ignoring the social concerns she said had led many people in Britain to vote for the Brexit.

“The EU is threatening to fall apart,” Wagenknecht said. “Anyone who thinks he needs intimidation to ensure European solidarity has already long given up on Europe.”

Merkel’s CDU-CSU, the SPD and the opposition Green Party rejected that assessment. The Greens, represented by Katrin Göring-Eckardt, called upon Merkel to reassure expats of their status by this summer.

Criticism of Erdogan, conflict over Le Pen

Significantly, Merkel began her address with statements critical of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and irregularities in Turkey’s constitutional referendum, which gave him what some say, are quasi-autocratic powers. She also called for the release of a German journalist currently detained in Turkey.

“To be unmistakably clear, it’s not compatible with the rule of law if the Turkish executive judges people in advance, as has obviously happened with Deniz Yücel,” Merkel stated.

But Merkel said it would be a mistake for the EU to “turn its back” on Turkey, which is still, nominally, a candidate for potential membership in the bloc.

Frankreich Präsidentschaftswahl EU Flagge (picture alliance/Pacific Press/M. Debets)The outcome of the French election in early May is another major EU concern

Spokespeople for the parliamentary party groups joined in the criticism of Erdogan. They also took the opportunity to comment on the results of the first round of the French election, which left centrist investment banker Emmanuel Macron to face right-wing, anti-EU populist Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote on May 7.

Wagenknecht criticized the fact that the poll had left voters with a choice between a “neo-liberal” and Le Pen. That wasn’t a popular view with her parliamentary peers.

Göring-Eckardt said all German parties had a responsibility to support “democracy,” in the form of Macron, against the “hate mongering” of Le Pen. SPD General Secretary Katarina Barley said Wagenknecht’s remarks showed that she had “no clue.”

It was an impressive display that the EU is confronted by issues other than Brexit and that national political squabbling continues as usual.

Watch video03:34

Conservative expert says EU in strong position on Brexit

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