Eurocrats accused of plotting to “make a mess” of the Brexit negotiations in order to punish the UK may soon be brought to heel by the bloc’s powerful member-states, with a leading German MEP emphasising the importance of British trade to the European economy.
Hans-Olaf Henkel, Vice-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament, told British newspaper The Express in no uncertain terms that “Germany should be the country saying, ‘For Christ’s sake, give them the best trade deal possible’.”
Henkel complained that hardliners within the bloc — specifically chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the European Parliament’s representative in the talks, Guy Verhofstadt — were putting Germany’s substantial trade surplus with the United Kingdom at risk by adopting a belligerent stance, suggesting Britain could go to the end of the queue for an EU trade deal in order to make a point.
“Why have they said this when suddenly they’ve come up with a very quick deal for Japan?” he railed.
“That by itself shows they want to punish Britain. For Christ’s sake, Japan was never at the beginning of any queue.”
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) July 25, 2017
“They are still in the mode of punishment, rather than in the mode of instead of doing the best thing in our own interests,” the MEP complained.
“We need negotiators there who are looking at the interests of the European Union, and not at the interests of what do we need to do to avoid another Brexit.”
Henkel’s classically liberal Free Democratic Party has been kingmaker in most German elections since the Second World War, and is thought to be on course to help Chancellor Angela Merkel form a government after this year’s federal elections.
Henkel has previously described the Free Democrats as a “very British-minded party in favour of free trade and market economics. Our view is that we should get along with the British as well as possible [and] a successful Brexit is of fundamental importance to Germany”.
Henkel is not alone in warning that failure to secure a good deal with Britain will damage the European Union, with the Hungarian foreign minister recently warning that a ‘No Deal’ situation would be a “nightmare scenario” for European exporters.
“[T]he problem is the EU is very slow on free trade agreements, and if Britain gets free hands then you will be able to sign free trade agreements with India, with Turkey, with the U.S., with Australia, with which the European Union does not have free trade agreements,” he explained.
“So, if this is the case, then it will harm our competitiveness, harm the competitiveness of Europeans furthermore … we want the most comprehensive economic trade and investment partnership with the UK in the future.”
Research suggests that a ‘No Deal’ scenario would inflict £12.9 billion in tariffs on EU exporters compared to just £5.2 billion for British exporters – who could be compensated through a combination of research grants, subsidies, and general tax cuts funded through EU tariff revenues and savings on EU budget contributions.