With the United Kingdom official triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union on Wednesday, the EU of 28 members states now has an expiration date. The European Commission under chief negotiation Michel Barnier and the British Government now have two years to strike a deal on the terms of the impending Brexit. Any hopes of striking a deal on the future relationship of both partners that PM Theresa May might have had, by now should be crushed, though.
Chancellor Merkel voiced her regret for the UK leaving the EU, saying that the union „is losing a strong and important member state“. At the same time, she stressed that no talks on future arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union would begin before both sides have agreed on the terms of the UK’s exit. Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel blew the same horn, saying the EU member states had found a „strong“ position for the negotiations that Germany would „wholeheartedly“ support.
The parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag mostly reacted in similar fashion, calling for European unity in the Brexit negotiations while emphasizing the many achievements of the bloc and pointing to the many challenges that the EU and an independent UK will likely face „in the spirit of friendship“ in the future.
Any deviation from the planned negotiation procedures – no parallel negotiation of exit terms and future relationship – is completely out of question and potential plans by the UK to exploit differences in opinion of the members of the EU at this point seem unlikely to be successful.
The EU of 27 now will take about a month to agree on a concrete negotiation position which they will finalise in a meeting on April 29. The first outlook does not bode well for the UK and particularly for the Treasury. Chancellor Merkel has already indicated in private that she will support demanding a €60bn exit bill.
Chancellor Merkel reacted to the triggering of Article 50 during a speech in Berlin, saying that the UK should remain „an important partner“ of the EU after Brexit’s conclusion. At the same time, she remained adamant about starting talks about future relations between the UK and the EU only after Brexit negotiations have been conluded.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel: Bundesregierung will „wholeheartedly“ support Barnier and his team, wants to „stay friends after the break-up“. Says preserving EU unity is vital.
Deputy parliamentary chairman Hans-Peter Friedrich MdB and spokesman on European Affairs Michael Stübgen MdB: negotiations will be complex, difficult. However, Britain and EU will continue to share many interests, e.g. in security policy and trade. The negotiations will strengthen the unity of the remaining member states.
Deputy parliamentary chairman Axel Schäfer MdB and spokesman on European Affairs Norbert Spinrath MdB: chief goal is to preserve the unity of the EU after the Brexit. Special attention needs to be paid to the EU citizens planning to stay in the UK after Brexit and their rights. One-off competitive advantage in the negotiation period post-Brexit must be prevented. Reaffirm pride in, commitment to EU.
Parliamentary Chairman Dietmar Bartsch MdB: negotiations will be marked by egoism and a wish to perpetuate an unjust status quo in the EU and the UK alike. Expects separation to be „dirty“, consequences of the negotiations to be „harmful“ to Germany and the EU at large.
Deputy parliamentary chairman Frithjof Schmidt MdB and spokesman on European Affairs Manuel Sarrazin MdB: EU now needs a clear negotiation position for the Brexit negotiations. UK cannot be allowed to cherry-pick advantages of EU membership outside the bloc. Demand a clear Bundesregierung commitment to a strong and united EU.