Those in Britain hoping for a soft European Union stance in forthcoming negotiations sooner or later mention the car manufacturer BMW, one of Germany’s prime exporters. Surely BMW would like to continue exporting its cars freely and will use its considerable political influence, together with that of the entire car industry, to sway Angela Merkel to adopt an accommodating position?
After all, why should Germany be overly emotional or political about Brexit and pursue a strategy of economic self-harm? Germany, whose influence in the world is largely based on its economic power, would let the economics trump the politics of Brexit in the end, wouldn’t it?
Similar arguments can be heard about Germany’s security interests. It may be the most powerful country on the continent in economic terms, but it is not a military or diplomatic heavyweight, as Britain is. After the election of Donald Trump in the US, and faced with authoritarian governments in Europe’s vicinity, Berlin depends on Britain as a partner. Wouldn’t Germany consider the risks of alienating the UK over a hard Brexit too high?
Such views of Germany’s position in the coming Brexit talks are wrong, for three reasons.
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Christian Odendahl is chief economist at the Centre for European Reform. The centre’s policy brief on Germany’s position in the Brexit negotiations can be found here.