A trade war would follow any British exit from the European Union (EU), a senior ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned, sparking a diplomatic brawl between the two countries as UK Prime Minister David Cameron prepares to enter the final round of negotiations on the matter.
Prominent German MP Gunther Krichbaum (pictured above right) said the UK “cannot survive” on its own and warned of devastating trade tariffs on British exports should Britain vote to leave the union, according to the Mail on Sunday.
Mr Krichbaum’s threat of reprisal came in a clash with senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, who accused the German politician of “threatening” Britain over the EU negotiations.
Sir Bill maintained that Britain fought two world wars on European soil for the right to chart its own course on the global stage and was not about to be beholden to bureaucrats in Brussels taking orders from Berlin.
Mr Krichbaum has a history of attacking Britain over its Brexit aspirations and casting judgement on domestic political affairs, attacking Mr Cameron on numerous occasions over the in-out referendum.
The Mail reports that in January 2013, he accused Mr Cameron of trying to “blackmail” the EU; in May 2014 he mocked the “flip-flopping” PM and derided his attempt to exempt Britain from the EU’s pledge for “ever closer union” as a “desperate attempt to appease UKIP”; and in November 2014, he said Mr Cameron would get a “bloody nose” if he curbed immigration without permission from Brussels.
Mr Krichbaum and Sir Bill had a sharp exchange during a meeting in The Hague last Monday that went further when they argued face-to-face afterwards. Mr Krichbaum, seen by some as Mrs Merkel’s anti-Cameron “attack dog”, claimed Britain’s economy would be crippled as a result of lost EU trade deals, mocking: “You won’t be able to survive, trading conditions will not be in your favour.”
Sir Bill retorted: “Yes we can. We’ve been doing it for generations. We have a multi-billion-pound trading deficit with the EU: you run a multi-billion surplus. You need to sell us your cars and trucks. What do you take us for? Do you think we are incapable of running our own affairs?”
It was at this point that lawyer Mr Krichbaum, 51, a member of Mrs Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat party retorted: “There is the question of tariffs.”
Sir Bill shot back: “You’re not threatening me, are you?”
The Conservative MP then took the opportunity to educate his German adversary on past European events: “There is history between our two countries. We have had to battle for our freedom over the last century. We should not and will not be governed by EU majority voting dominated by Germany.”
The row had started earlier at a formal meeting when Sir Bill declared: “Our people no longer trust the democratic structures of the EU. We are not going to be in the second tier of a two tier Europe effectively run by Germany.”
Mr Cameron will head to Brussels on Thursday for a crunch EU summit to thrash out the last remaining details of his proposed deal that his critics have characterised as slim on both ambition and potential for delivery.
A final draft deal to conclude EU negotiations — including an “emergency brake” on benefits to EU migrants and a UK opt-out from “ever closer union” — is expected to be tabled by officials on 17 February.