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Chatham House: Brexit Germany is more interesting politically than economically

Exit the UK from the EU is not the most urgent problem facing Berlin.

29 March, British Prime Minister Theresa May handed Brussels a notice of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, which marked the beginning of a two-year process of demarcation of London and the EU. Although the European Commission will formally negotiate the European Commission, the governments of the EU member states will aspire to take them as actively as possible, given what is at stake. Many expect that Germany will play a primary role in these negotiations, which will be determined mainly by the interests of its influential exporting companies. Nevertheless, such an assessment is erroneous, writes Katinka Barysh in an article published by the think tank of the British Foreign Ministry Chatham House.

The author notes that for the majority of German citizens Brexit is not so much difference even Europe as a whole is hardly a cause of concern in Berlin at the moment. It does not cause Brexit biggest fears in political circles. Whenever German officials have spoken openly about leaving the United Kingdom from the European Union, they usually repeat of what this output be should not - in particular, removing cream from the union or the dismantling of the common market - rather than how it should be.

Another thing is the German business. The UK Government can quite rightly say that in the case of Brexit the German economy is very much at stake. Thus, German exports to the UK in 2016 year reached the amount of € 86 billion, while imports from the United Kingdom was less than half that amount. According to some estimates, about 750 thousand. Jobs in Germany depend on exports to the UK, with 2,5 thousand. British companies are active in the UK, investing in it € 120 billion.

Not only the German automotive industry is driven by British factories and sales, in the same situation are and German pharmaceutical companies, engineering, financial institutions and other sectors of the German economy. It is not surprising that four out of ten German companies expect Brexit hurt their business.

Succumb whether Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German company requirements and take Do a softer stance in the negotiations, is expected, many UK citizens? In the past, German foreign policy is indeed often determined by economic interests. But not necessarily that it will be so this time, and sanctions against Russia are an important precedent: even the most powerful lobby groups have not been able to influence the determination of Berlin to punish Russia for "annexation" of Crimea.

Angela Merkel

Merkel priority is to save 27 EU countries and to protect the EU's achievements. So, speaking to the German employers' federation in the year 2016, Merkel addressed directly to the audience of German business leaders with an appeal to put the sanctity of the single market above their individual business interests. Indeed, for many German companies preserve their pan-European supply chains (which, for example, the German automobile assembly plants linked to suppliers in Central Europe) is more important than the preservation of the commercial opportunities in the UK.

Although Germany is unlikely to show softness, it is nevertheless unlikely that Berlin will seek to "punish" Great Britain. This does not mean that there is no disappointment. "The British have never been committed members of the union," many German citizens complain, while many are puzzled that the country can go to such an important referendum that is completely unprepared for its possible outcome. But FRG citizens also remember the UK's great contribution to the EU - a single market, an expansion to the east, a common security policy - and they hope that the country can remain a close and constructive partner of the European bloc.

The author emphasizes that Merkel, in any case is not the politician who will approach the negotiations on the basis of emotions, be it frustration or nostalgia. She's a pragmatist.

Angela Merkel, Donald Trump

And while British politicians often point to domestic political constraints in explaining their policy towards the EU, it is important to remember that leaving the UK from the EU is only a small part of Merkel's agenda in 2017. Merkel faces a huge list of problems - from the daunting task of integrating a huge number of refugees, to a smoldering conflict in Ukraine, fighting the unpredictable Donald Trump in the US and increasingly bellicose president of Turkey Recep Erdogan. And she will have to solve all these problems amid a difficult campaign ahead of the September elections in her country. Whatever the result of this vote, the elections will be conducted not on foreign policy issues, such as Brexit, but on internal issues, which include, in the first place, immigration, security and social justice.

Moreover, in the framework of the negotiations will address issues that are wider than Brexit. In addition, as experts note, moreover, that these negotiations will be the most difficult in the entire history of the EU, it will still be more than one process, but several.

Firstly, the EU Member States and institutions of Union in Brussels. So, for the European Commission and Parliament negotiations on Brexit become part of the broader struggle for the preservation of their traditionally important role in the development of EU policy. Secondly, the EU member states, which, although initially adhered to rigid positions and now pursue their goals. Moreover, negotiations on the exit from the EU would involve a more extensive debate on the future of the EU, particularly on the issue of migrants' access to the social security system.

Finally, in some EU Member States. There Brexit covers such topical issues today as free trade or protectionism, nationalism and multilaterarizm, as well as xenophobia and tolerance. To the extent that the negotiations on Brexit important for the internal debates in Germany, they will not touch the car tariffs or financial services. We shall be mainly about whether mainstream policy will make concessions to populist forces.

If we add to this complex mixture of talks that Germany seeks to redefine its role in Europe and the world, it is clear that a number of different motives is behind the German negotiating position for the exit of Great Britain from the EU. At the same time some of them have little to do with Brexit themselves.


Many of its European neighbors Germany urged Berlin to show more "leadership" - although the form in which, in their opinion, it should appear - giving Berlin a lot of money to their poor neighbors or to take part of their debt - is not consistent with German notions of national responsibility. Many citizens of Germany were disappointed that Berlin has demonstrated "leadership" during the refugee crisis, when many EU partners Berlin missed to him only a small number of migrants.

Against this background, German citizens are now pondering the question of what the leadership in Europe, what price they are willing to pay, and what should be the responsibilities of other EU countries. Due to the election of Donald Trump, some commentators have hastened to declare Angela Merkel, "leader of the free world," attributing her role she firmly rejected.

Such discussions about leadership are not easy for citizens of Germany for historical and other reasons, so chances are that Berlin will seek a prominent role in the upcoming negotiations on Brexit, small. On the contrary, Berlin would seek to remain as close as possible to Paris (with the proviso that in May, the presidency of the country does not take Marine Le Pen) and make efforts to enhance the Franco-German partnership after a difficult decade. Therefore, the position of Germany in respect of Brexit negotiations can be understood in France.

A source: A REGNUM

Author: Alexander Belov

Tags: Merkel, Germany, Politics, Research, Economics, Brexit, United Kingdom, European Union

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