Bavarian lawmaker Stephan Mayer believes efforts by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, to apply “harsh pressure” to the UK do not serve Germany’s interests.
Juncker has told the Belgian parliament that Britain’s so-called divorce bill for leaving the UK will “to say it a bit coarsely, be very hefty.”
A range of figures, generally in the tens of billions of euros, have been mentioned.
“I fear in a certain way that this harsh pressure which is now put from the EU Commission on the UK isn’t in Germany’s interests,” said Mayer, a representative of the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU). The party is in semi-permanent coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
“The negotiations haven’t started yet and I think it is not very clever and it’s not very fair also to mention such sums and such amounts”, he said.
Germany’s vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, made similar remarks at the recent Munich Security Conference. Speaking alongside France’s Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Social Democrat politician told attendees, “I regret the Brexit decision, but we have to respect it. The temptation of being too stern with the United Kingdom, we should not yield to that, because we need the United Kingdom as a partner.”
Interestingly, previous reports indicated that federalist-leaning member-states were taking a harder line on the so-called Brexit bill than the Juncker Commission, with Brussels bureaucrats more amenable to the UK offsetting its alleged liabilities against its share of EU assets than the French and German governments.
Sources told The Daily Telegraph that “Both France and Germany objected to this, but the Commission said it was hard to argue that Britain must pay up for its outstanding commitments while refusing to recognise its share of the EU’s assets”.
The apparent confusion lends some support to Juncker’s earlier prediction that the EU will not hold together during the Brexit talks, made as he announced he would not be standing for a second term as head of the bloc’s unelected executive.
“Do the Poles and the Hungarians want exactly the same thing as the Germans and the French? I have serious doubts,” he said.
Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), has already claimed that, while “some people really want to make it as tough as possible for the United Kingdom, [others] would like to sustain a kind of partnership with the United Kingdom. Not within Europe – since you do not wish to remain inside – but very close and friendly relations from outside the European Union.
“Poland belongs to the second category of voices.”