LONDON — German business leaders say it will be “extraordinarily difficult” to protect the UK from damage in Brexit negotiations.
Senior Cabinet figures including Brexit secretary David Davis have frequently claimed German carmakers — along with other key European industries such as French winemakers — will push their governments for a speedy free trade deal with Britain when it exits the EU.
However, the leaders of Germany’s two main business organisations told the Observer their priority was maintaining a strong single market, the tariff-free trade arrangement which Britain plans to opt out of.
Ingo Kramer, president of the confederation of German employers’ associations (BDA), told the Observer: “The single market is one of the major assets of the EU. Access to the single market requires the acceptance of all four single market freedoms.
It is the responsibility of the British Government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel
“The UK will remain a very important partner for us, but we need a fair deal for both sides respecting this principle.
“The cohesion of the remaining 27 EU member states has highest priority.”
Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI — a federation which represents the German industries — told the newspaper: “Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority for the European Union.
“Europe must maintain the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods, capital, services, and labour.
“It is the responsibility of the British Government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel.
“Over the coming months, it will be extraordinarily difficult to avert negative effects on British businesses in particular.”
The stark interventions come after the G20 summit, at which US President Donald Trump met the prime minister and pledged to sign a free trade deal with the UK “very, very quickly” after Brexit.