Sunday, 26 June 2016
Germany leaves door open for UK to have a ‘rethink’ over referendum result
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff has said MPs should be able to have the chance to think again about the consequences of leaving the European Union.
‘Politicians in London should have the possibility to reconsider the consequences of an exit,’ the RND newspaper network on Sunday quoted Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, as saying.
If Britain really left, that would be ‘a difficult watershed with many consequences,’ RND quoted Altmaier as saying. Of course Britain could apply to rejoin the EU later, RND reported him as saying, ‘but that would take a long time.’
Merkel will host the leaders of France, Italy and the EU in Berlin on Monday amid fears Britain’s vote to leave will create a domino effect in eurosceptic member states.
In what promises to be one of the bitterest summits in the EU’s history, David Cameron will then face huge pressure in Brussels on Tuesday to immediately trigger the two-year exit process.
Where’s Tom Watson? Labour deputy goes AWOL after leaving GlastonburyBut Cameron, who has said he will resign by October and leave the negotiations to his successor, is to be left out in the cold on the second day of the summit on Wednesday when the other 27 EU leaders meet without him.
Germany has traditionally been reluctant to exert an overt leadership role in Europe, though it has been increasingly assertive in recent years in designing the response to the eurozone’s debt troubles and, less conclusively, in seeking an EU-wide response to the influx of refugees and other migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere.
Even now, with one of the EU’s heavyweights on the way out, Berlin is not likely to seek a sole leadership role, ever conscious of the historical burden of its Nazi past.
‘It will continue to lead with and through groups,’ said Daniela Schwarzer, an expert on EU affairs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States think-tank in Berlin.
‘There’s this really strong concern to always be part of something and not going it alone.
‘Germany has a huge interest that the Brussels institutions have more support than they currently have,’ she added, and there is no sign that it ‘actively seeks power and a hegemonic position’. Guntram Wolff, director of the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels, said Brexit will mean issues can no longer be addressed by shifting coalitions of France, the UK and Germany.
Instead, it would increase the dependency between France and Germany – the traditional motor powering EU integration, but one that has sputtered somewhat over recent years amid differences on the debt crisis and other issues.
‘In that couple, Germany is the stronger player, quite clearly,’ he said. ‘So in that sense it will probably increase the role of Germany in the EU.’
German officials left open what exactly the response to the British referendum might be. Finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said earlier this month that ‘we couldn’t simply call for more integration’ if Britain leaves.
The remaining 27 EU members should ‘calmly analyse and evaluate the situation and, on this basis, together make the right decisions,’ Ms Merkel has said.
She acknowledged that people all over the continent increasingly have doubts about the direction of the European unification process, and added: ‘We must ensure that citizens can feel in concrete terms how much the European Union contributes to improving their personal situation.’