Germany and the EU cannot afford to drive a hard bargain over Brexit

by Gunnar Beck, Barrister and Reader in EU law & Legal Theory, University of London

This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe

Germany seems to be softening her stance on Brexit. On 17 August Michael Roth, Germany’s Minister of European Affairs, said, “Given Britain’s size, significance, and its long membership of the European Union, there will probably be a special status which only bears limited comparison to that of countries that have never belonged to the European Union.” Roth’s comments mark a departure from Chancellor Merkel’s comments shortly after the Brexit referendum that Britain would receive no special treatment, nor would she be allowed to “cherry-pick” in trying to retain full access to the single market.

Roth’s comments have not gone unnoticed in the British press. The initial response was a negotiating tactic which has been exposed when Theresa May refused to trigger Art. 50. Since Merkel has come out publicly in support of the EU’s and France’s position against any cherry-picking, Germany’s emerging position is being communicated on a more junior level. It allows the German government to begin the process of shifting the ground while not appearing to change its mind (yet).

Few, however, realise how weak Germany’s and the EU’s negotiating position actually is. Continue reading “Germany and the EU cannot afford to drive a hard bargain over Brexit”

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