All signs points towards Germany making Britain's Brexit talks as difficult as possible

LONDON — All signs are pointing towards Germany making Brexit talks difficult for Britain, just as it is about to trigger Article 50 and thereby starting the formal two-year negotiation process for the UK leaving the European Union.

According to a range of German officials cited by the Financial Times, Britain should expect:

  • A deal that it probably will not be happy with.
  • A deal less favourable than staying in the EU.
  • The UK will have to pay the entire £50 billion (€57.3 billion) Brexit divorce bill or face being sued.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday and thereby start the formal two-year Brexit negotiation process.

May is taking Britain towards a “Hard Brexit” — shorthand for Britain leaving the European Union without access to the Single Market in exchange for having full control over immigration into the country.

Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s close ally and said “we have no interest in punishing the UK, but we also have no interest in putting European integration in danger over the UK. That’s why our priority must be, with a heavy heart, to keep the rest of Europe — without the UK — as close together as possible.”

This falls closely in line with EU officials statements about how Britain’s deal must be worse than if it stayed part of the EU. For example, French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned Britain that the terms of any Brexit deal must not be better than full EU membership.

Former Italy president Mario Monti also said earlier this year that being nice to the UK would be the equivalent of “organised suicide” for the EU

That’s why our priority must be, with a heavy heart, to keep the rest of Europe — without the UK — as close together as possible.

Meanwhile, UK politicians that support Brexit are pushing Chancellor Philip Hammond to cap the amount Britain will pay in its Brexit divorce settlement to just over 5% of what the EU is angling for.

MPs are demanding Hammond get a divorce deal that will only cost Britain £3 billion. This is tiny compared to the nearly £50 billion that Britain is expected to pay, according to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The £50 billion figure was agreed after a meeting between Barnier and representatives from other EU member states in February. Germany and France allegedly wanted the divorce bill to be over £59 billion (€67 billion) but agreed on a compromise. Barnier spoke about charging Britain nearly £50 billion for “outstanding liabilities” in December.

The German finance ministry said in a statement to the FT: “Any Article 50 agreement will have to include the UK’s assurances that it will honour the financial commitments it undertook as an EU member state.”

Meanwhile, Norbert Spinrath, Brexit spokesman for Mr Schulz’s Social Democrats, also told the paper: “We expect the British to do the honourable thing. If they don’t, the EU can take them to the international courts.”

So Britain trying to cut the total amount down in divorce payments looks unlikely.

Actually, overall, upcoming Brexit talks is probably best summed up by the CDU’s parliamentary Brexit spokesman: “We all see it’s going to be difficult. It would be a miracle if we got a good result.”


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