Merkel’s panic exposed: Why Brexit leaves Germany’s EU strength on brink of collapse

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Britain left the EU at the end of January – an outcome that had been made certain when Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the Conservative Party to a resounding victory in the December 12 general election. While Brexit will undoubtedly influence the future direction of the UK, it will also greatly impact Europe, particularly the power balance between Germany and France. According to Professor John Keiger, with a British withdrawal from the EU, France is again confronted by an old demon dating from 1871: “Management of a dominant Germany on the continent of Europe.”

In a report for The Spectator, he wrote: “Paris has sought to counter German power, whether military, political or economic, by two broad means since 1900.

“The first means was to secure Britain as an ally and ensure she remained committed to the security of continental Europe. This she was successful in doing prior to 1914 and 1939. However, the immediate post-war years were a different story.

“Her second means of countering German hegemony was to enmesh Germany in a European-wide political and economic organisation able to dilute her sovereignty and power.

“This she attempted unsuccessfully from 1925 to 1933, but which she finally achieved from 1951 through the various stages of European integration.”

With Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, Mr Keiger argues, France loses a counter-balance to her powerful neighbour and is left with 27 states that do not naturally align with French interests or methods.

He added: “Nevertheless, this strategy appears to be going down the well-worn French route of seeking further to emasculate German power by submerging her sovereignty, economy and finances in deeper European integration through his calls for a renewed Europe.”

Despite Mr Keiger’s claims, Professor John Ryan argued that France will not need to keep Germany in place after the end of the transition period, as Brexit has “complicated and isolated Germany’s role in the EU”.

In an entry for the London School of Economics (LSE) blog, Mr Ryan wrote: “Brexit has increased the perception of German dominance and with it added pressure to form coalitions to counterbalance its power, especially in discussions on the eurozone.

“Paradoxically, therefore, Germany could actually become weaker – that is, less able to get what it wants – in an EU without the UK.

“Meanwhile, expectations of Germany and its role in the EU would probably increase further.”

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German export enterprises, Mr Ryan noted, have already experienced significant losses in trade with the UK.

For example, exports to that country – which in 2015, were still running at more than €89billion (£80billion), ranking third among customers of German products – have fallen to less than €79billion (£71billion) in 2019, while exports to the other EU countries increased.

In 2020, the United Kingdom ranked fifth among Germany’s customers.

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Brexit, without a consensual agreement, would sink German economic growth by 0.6 percent in 2021.

Mr Ryan explained: “That would have grave consequences: the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) are predicting economic growth in 2020 to be only 0.7 percent. These assessments were made before the full negative economic implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and will have to be revised down.”

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Most importantly, the expert added, with Brexit, the centre of gravity in the EU has now shifted southeast, in the European Parliament, but above all in the Council.

He said: “With the UK as a member, the north (defined as Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands) had a blocking minority of 36.8 percent.

“Without the UK, that share has dropped to 27.8 percent, too small for a veto. Even when Austria and the Baltics are included, the north can now be overruled.”

Mr Ryan concluded: “The UK’s departure leaves enormous political and financial gaps in the EU.

“Unfortunately, Chancellor Merkel’s own EU policy remains somewhat of a conundrum.

“Although there is now significant domestic pressure to pursue a more pro-European course of action.”

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