Phillip Hammond and David Davis want to charm EU businesses
In a charm offensive ahead of the next round of Brexit negotiations, the Chancellor used a speech at an economic summit in Germany to make a direct appeal over the heads of EU leaders for support in the push for a trade deal.
Britain had put forward a vision of a “mutually beneficial partnership” with the bloc and now it was Europe’s turn to respond, he said.
“It takes two to tango,” Mr Hammond insisted.
His remarks in Berlin are being seen as a direct appeal to German business leaders to put pressure on Angela Merkel’s government over Brexit.
The ministers want the UK protected from punishment by the EU
Since the referendum in the UK, there has been a marked asymmetry between the enthusiasm expressed by certain third countries to pursue future trade deals with the UK and the relative silence, in public at least, from Europe on what the EU wants our futur
They followed concerns among UK officials that the German Chancellor is seeking to block British demands for a bespoke trade deal.
Mr Hammond’s trip to Berlin is part of a major effort by the Government to win over business opinion in Germany.
EU Exit Secretary David Davis is due to meet chief executives in Munich today (Thursday) as part of the charm offensive.
Over dinner at the Die Welt economic summit, Mr Hammond urged business leaders to help make the argument for a comprehensive EU-UK trade deal that will boost the economies of both partners.
Business leaders could help get rid of the “narrative of punishment for leaving” the EU that was circulating in Brussels, he said.
There are fears that Angela Merkel could scupper a bespoke deal
“They say it takes two to tango,” the Chancellor said of the current stage in the negotiations.
“Both sides need to be clear about what they want from a future relationship.
“I know the repeated complaint from Brussels has been that the UK hasn’t made up its mind what type of relationship it wants.
“But in London, many feel that we have little, if any, signal of what future relationship the EU27 would like to have with a post-Brexit Britain.
“Since the referendum in the UK, there has been a marked asymmetry between the enthusiasm expressed by certain third countries to pursue future trade deals with the UK and the relative silence, in public at least, from Europe on what the EU wants our future relationship to look like.”
Appealing for business leaders to intervene in the Brexit debate, he said: “I am saying this to you tonight, because I fear that many EU opinion-formers see this as a question only for British politicians, for British voters to resolve, before they engage with the EU27.
“By signalling a willingness to work together in a spirit of pragmatic cooperation on a future, mutually beneficial, partnership, based on high levels of access for goods and services continued close cooperation in security and defence in education, science, technology, and culture putting behind us any narrative of ‘punishment’ for leaving and focusing on the mutually beneficial relationships we have now and can continue in the future the EU will send a message to the British people which will resonate as they consider the options for their future. And that is my challenge to you.”
Earlier this week, German government sources were reported to have rubbished Theresa May’s dream of a bespoke trade deal as a “serious threat to the integrity of the EU and its single market”.
One source reportedly described the idea as “the latest episode in the cake and eat it sitcom series”.
Berlin Stock Exchange chief Artur Fischer played down talk of a bespoke deal for the UK
Artur Fischer, chief executive of the Berlin stock exchange, yesterday played down talk of a bespoke Brexit deal for the UK.
“It is certainly possible, but not probable,” he said in a BBC interview.
“EU interests would not allow for such a nice, special deal David Davis has announced and made a possibility,” he added.
Ahead of their visits, Mr Hammond and Mr Davis used a joint article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper to appeal for German support against the EU imposing trade barriers on Britain.
“As two of Europe’s biggest economies, it makes no sense to either Germany or Britain to put in place unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and services that would only damage businesses and economic growth on both sides of the Channel,” they wrote.
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In the joint article the two Cabinet ministers acknowledged that Germany and other EU members want to protect the integrity of the single market “and that without all the obligations of EU membership third countries cannot have all the benefits”.
But they insisted that “those priorities are not inconsistent with ours, a deep and special partnership with our closest trading partners and allies”.
Mr Hammond and Mr Davis said they wanted financial services to be covered by the new “economic partnership”, with a deal that “supports collaboration within the European banking sector, rather than forcing it to fragment”.
The UK and EU should “maintain our common principles” and continue the “intelligent co-operation of our regulators”, the pair said.
Meanwhile, Mrs May is due to meet finance leaders in Downing Street today to update them on the Brexit process.
Yesterday, she insisted to MPs that the Government was “doing well” in the Brexit negotiations.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, she said: “I think anybody who saw the success we had in negotiating phase one of Brexit and getting that sufficient progress will say that actually this is a Government that knows what it’s doing and is getting on with the job and is doing well.”