MORE BREXIT DELAY? UK on back burner as weakened Merkel faces MONTHS of coalition building

Posted on Sep 25 2017 - 10:38pm by admin

Experts said the bloc’s most important country is likely to become “more inward-looking” and less responsive to global challenges as it faces months of coalition talks and a wider debate about its future. 

The task Mrs Merkel faces of having to cobble together a new Government, most likely containing the liberal Free Democrats and left-wing Greens, is set to consume much of Berlin’s political resources for the rest of this year. 

And if and when the so-called ‘Jamaica Coalition’ – named for the yellow, green and red colours of the three parties – does emerge it is likely to have bigger priorities to address than Britain’s pending exit. 

Angela MerkelGETTY

Angela Merkel faces months of tough coalition talks

The one all-powerful Chancellor was shorn of much authority as her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) secured just 33 per cent of the vote – its worst result since the Second World War. 

The centre-left Social Democrats, led by former EU Parliament president Martin Schulz, also performed historically badly and immediately ruled out a return to the ‘Grand Coalition’ with Mrs Merkel. 

But elsewhere the far-right Alternative for Germany became the first ultra nationalist movement to enter the Bundestag in decades after winning 13 per cent and shocking the political establishment. 

Experts today said the overall result of the vote is likely to have little impact on Germany’s position on Brexit, other than to further distract the country from an issue that was not a political priority in the first place. 

Britain’s departure from the EU was famously not mentioned at all in a recent television debate between Mrs Merkel and Mr Schulz, an absence that was largely reflected in the rest of the campaign. 

Before the vote eurosceptics in the UK had put much of their hopes in the re-emergence of the FDP, a free-market orientated party that has previously said it wants Germany to secure a good trade deal with the UK. 

British officials will be pleased that the party, which scored 11 per cent, now looks set to enter the Government, but experts have warned against expecting it to ride to Britain’s rescue. 

FDP officials are eying up the Berlin treasury as their part of the coalition deal and are likely to expend much of their political capital in negotiations with Mrs Merkel securing a veto on further eurozone integration. 

However, whilst the liberals’ expected place in the new Berlin administration could aid the Brexit talks, Mrs Merkel’s other potential partners, the Greens, could prove a hindrance in equal measure. 

If anything Merkel needs to be tougher to show value of being inside club

Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist at the European Policy Centre

The left-wing party has consistently and vociferously opposed many of the free trade deals proposed and signed by the EU, including the recent one with Canada, any may raise the same objections to a pact with the UK. 

Simon Usherwood, a University of Surrey academic and Research Investigator at the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said the election result would probably have “very little” impact on Brexit. 

He said: “In essence, [it will change] very little. The CDU/CSU will continue as the pivot of the Federal Government, and policy on Brexit isn’t framed by the vote. 

“Assuming coalition talks take some time, Merkel won’t have Article 50 in her sights too much, but also won’t let it slip. Her coalition partners aren’t going to have Brexit high on their list of priorities either.” 

He concluded there will be “more of the same, despite what some in UK have said or will say”. Senior Tories had said in the run up to the election that they expected Mrs Merkel to have a renewed focus on Brexit once it was over.

Olaf Böhnke, a foreign policy expert at the consultancy firm Rasmussen Global, agreed that the prospect of coalition talks will suck what little energy Berlin was putting into Brexit away elsewhere. 

He said: “Angela Merkel will now be challenged to win back support of her conservative core constituency. This might have an impact on the amount of time the Chancellor has for extensive foreign policy and even European engagements like in previous years. 

“Coalition building with two very stubborn partners – the FDP and Greens – will absorb much of her attention and her political skill in the coming months. After a very lame election campaign, the result has caused German politics to enter more turbulent times.”

And Thorsten Benner‏, the director of the Global Public Policy Institute think tank, concluded the result would “make Germany more inward-looking as fights over/within new coalition as well as battles over identity politics loom large”.

But Fabian Zuleeg, the chief economist at the European Policy Centre think tank, predicted the rise of the AfD may even lead Mrs Merkel and her pro-European allies to take a harder line still on Brexit. 

He tweeted: “ Does German election make a difference to Brexit negotiations? If anything Merkel needs to be tougher to show value of being inside club.” 

The fourth round of the ongoing Brexit negotiations gets under way in Brussels today, with the two sides hoping to make progress in light of Theresa May’s Florence speech. 

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