German industry wants Brexit clarity, but isn’t on Britain’s side – POLITICO

The Volkswagen (VW) factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. | Adam Berry/Getty Images

UK Brexiteers may be disappointed if they’re pinning their hopes on business leaders in Berlin.

BERLIN – Ask a Brexiteer why a deal between the U.K. and the EU is not only doable but inevitable and they will point you to European business.

Ignore the sound and fury from EU politicians and the threats about the Brexit bill from the European Commission, goes the argument, it is the German carmakers, French farmers and Italian vintners who want to sell their products to U.K. consumers who are really pulling the strings. They will not allow their leaders to block a deal with the U.K. in the name of high ideals about continental solidarity.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in September last year, for example, predicted: “We are going to benefit from fantastic opportunities for free trade with our friends in the EU. Not only do we buy more German cars than anybody else, we drink more Italian wine than everyone else — they’re not going to put that at risk.”

And former UKIP leader Nigel Farage believes there is “lobbying going on behind the scenes from German carmakers saying ‘Monsieur Barnier [the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator] for goodness sake get a sensible trade deal or we’ll lose jobs in Munich and in Bavaria’.”

If that is the case, those backstage whispers came out into the open Monday, in the form of a joint statement on behalf of German and British industry.

Germany’s biggest industry lobbying group, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) and their counterparts the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called on political leaders to “put shared economic interests first” in the interest of clarity and certainty for businesses across Europe.

Martin Wansleben, CEO of the German industry group, said businesses are worried about the negative impact of Brexit, warning that “the terms of exit are still completely unclear.”

The uncertainty created by the Brexit vote is already impacting trade between the two economies. German exports to the U.K. sank by 3 percent in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016, even as Germany’s EU exports have ticked up by six percent in the same period, according to the joint…

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