Taking the lead, German style

From the BBC:

Angela Merkel has said she sees no obstacles in the way of beginning Brexit talks as scheduled after Theresa May failed to win a majority in Thursday’s UK election.

The German chancellor said she believed Britain would stick to the timetable, adding the European Union was “ready”.

I don’t know if it was always like this, but the EU seems to have given up all pretence that it isn’t the Germans running things. A few weeks ago we were told there was an EU negotiating team and that Britain would have to deal with it, rather than individual countries. We were told the EU member states had such faith in their team that they took fifteen minutes to agree on the approach they’ll take when negotiating.

Yet here is Merkel apparently speaking on behalf of the EU. Would the Czech prime minister get away with that? And note that she made these remarks pretty much immediately the election result was known, so she obviously didn’t run any of this by the EU negotiating team or the member states. She’s just assumed that Germany can speak on behalf of the entire EU and isn’t even bothering to hide it any more.

A half-decent negotiator on the British side could use this to drive a coach and horses through the EU strategy. The trouble with that is we have almost no chance of getting one. Either way, mainland Europeans seem quite content with Germany assuming the leadership. Let’s hope they don’t change their mind on that at some point.

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15 thoughts on “Taking the lead, German style

  1. Rather let’s hope that they *do* change their minds. Germany’s ruthless prioritising of the interests of its old fashioned metal-bashing economy and penchant for over-regulation and suppressing tax competition could stop the potentially vibrant New Europe economies in their tracks. Their problem I know but for myself I wish them well.

  2. Why can Britain not get a good negotiator, I find this very hard to believe. Britain has an abundance of good negotiators and they have been successfully negotiating international treaties for a very long time. What is different now?

    The British negotiators object is simple, they need to agree the terms for Britain to leave the European Union whilst understanding and dealing with what the remaining members position are.

    Yes, it is important, yes, both parties need to manage continuous change within their respective teams, no, their objective hasn’t changed and no the other party’s position hasn’t changed either.

    Maybe the British need to ditch their tactic of Run, Hide and Tell and things might start looking up for them once again. To run away, hide and tell others how hard Brexit is would be fatal to the outcome.

    Here’s a thought, if the current negotiating team arent sure about turning up for the start, they were the wrong team anyway. And if so, this is a positive as best not to kick off with a b team and I fail to see how a new team could not be organised to turn up and achieve an outcome either. Their objective is simple and they should never lose sight of that.

    Britain’s initial entrance to the EU was a very simplistic and short process, why should it’s exit be any more protracted. On the assumption that the negotiators to date were any good, then the only rational answer is that they never intended to achieve the outcome in the first place.

    Imagine if you were trying to run a business this way how long it would last.

  3. @Bardon,

    I’ll keep saying it (and recently mentioned it over lunch with perhaps a too desperate tone to a CEO of a well-known headhunter firm) that there are only two jobs I’d rather have right now than the one I’m currently doing;

    1. CEO of the ARU as practically anybody could do a better job than Bill Pulver, and
    2. Head negotiator for Brexit.

    Seriously, how much fun could be had playing the shareholders of BMW off against Merkel, the wine growers of Reims off against Macron, olive growers in Italy against whichever corrupt fool is Italy’s PM these days, etc.?

    27 stakeholders trying to negotiate with one? You wouldn’t even need to bother taking pictures of their kids going to school to show the other negotiators at the difficult moment in the discussions for a change.

  4. TNA, yes exactly, I am pretty sure you would bring home the bacon on that score alright, you fucking BATNA animal you. So what are we saying here, is it that all of the UK negotiators have bolted and are busily engaged fixing up old boats in Sydney harbour these days . The Brits just about invented this shit, surely to fuck they have a team on it that can deliver and a back up one at the ready just in case.

  5. “….fixing up old boats in Sydney harbour”

    Are you fucking stalking me?

    I’ve got three mates coming down to Middle Harbour at sparrow’s fart tomorrow to do a day’s maintenance bee on Dulcibella for beer and pizza wages.

    Have you found William of Ockham yet? I think you might enjoy the conversation.

  6. BiG,

    I don’t see anything there that indicates he is speaking on behalf of the EU. He is simply saying, in his capacity of Czech PM, that he hopes the British hurry up and form a government so they can get on with Brexit. He didn’t say anything about “there being no obstacles” or that “the EU is ready”, because it is not his place to say them. That prerogative apparently lies with Merkel.

  7. Total equivocation. The Czech PM says Britain should get its act together and form a government. To sort out its deal with the EU. What could be clearer than that? Tusk and Junker said the EU was ready and waiting, a day before Merkel thought to mention it.

    I suspect Germany does care more about the final outcome. At the end of the day, that deal will impact hugely on Germany’s exports of cars to, and import of financial services from, the UK. The stag and hen trade to Prague will be unaffected by bremain, hard brexit, or anything inbetween.

  8. The Czech PM says Britain should get its act together and form a government.

    Yes, he does. Sorry, what’s the issue again?

    Tusk and Junker said the EU was ready and waiting, a day before Merkel thought to mention it.

    Makes you wonder why Merkel did, doesn’t it?

    I suspect Germany does care more about the final outcome. At the end of the day, that deal will impact hugely on Germany’s exports of cars to, and import of financial services from, the UK.

    Oh yes, I am sure that whatever the EU decide upon it will be what is best for Germany.

  9. Oh, and this is from today’s Guardian:

    Theresa May is to be told the EU will take a year to draft a new mandate for its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, effectively killing the Brexit negotiations, if she insists on discussing a future trade relationship at the same time as the UK’s divorce bill.

    So the EU is “ready” but only if the negotiations take place on its terms. So not ready, in other words.

  10. Merkel gets more coverage on the BBC than she does in the entire German quality press combined. If she sneezes, it’s on the BBC.

    On your second point, if Merkel is indeed directing the EU she totally fucked up by saying “bring it on”, if the current EU stance has suddenly changed to kybosh the talks before they have started.

    I think two positions are clear:

    1) The EU does not want the UK to leave. Short of that, an example will be made of the UK and a hard Brexit will be forced, “pour encourager les autres”.

    On that encouragement of others, the now inevitability of a Corbyn victory at the next election, whether that happens later this year or as late as 2022, totally changes the EUrocracy’s calculus.

    It won’t take long ,as we all know that the same thing will happen as the last time we were in this situation (dying days of the John Major government). May will lose her majority by one of (a) the DUP bailing out or demanding Irish Protestant stuff that is totally unacceptable to the tories, or threatening directly to undermine the government, (b) by-election losses as MPs die and quit parliament, (c) losing some key vote to Tory rebels, which traditionally is followed by a confidence motion, or (d) the nuclear option of Sinn Fein taking their seats for the first time in 100 years. Which they can do at the time of their choosing during the parliament.

    That election will usher in >=10 years of Venezuela-style magic money tree socialism. The results of which can then be blamed on Hard Brexit, even if Hard Brexit is a secondary cause compared to Jezzbollah’s “democratic socialism”.

    2) Germany’s (Merkel’s) political interests are for a soft Brexit (or preferably no Brexit), and thus diametrically opposed to those of the EU top dogs.

    What is totally unclear is:
    (1) What the British electorate wanted.
    (2) What the British government wants.

    I think the UK is actually closer to a military coup than it has been for about 300 years. What is sure is that in 10 years time we will be looking at a vastly diminished country. All because the latest of a long string of ineffectual leaders was particularly ineffectual.

  11. @Big – “I think the UK is actually closer to a military coup than it has been for about 300 years.”

    Interesting comment, is this because of the alleged dismantling of its defence capability or the Corbyn misalignment with current defence policy or something else?

    As for the Brexit negotiation surely each parties strategies will not be aired on MSM and twitter. I seen they toothless guy sum up the E27 position and I read his key discussion points as threats, what to do about the Brits in Europe now type of thing but this is kindergarten stuff, the real negotiators from both sides must have more in mind than this.

    And did the electorate not indicate that it wanted the UK to leave the European Union.

  12. Dearieme…Nicholas Ridley was right!

    Am conducting a clear out, skim-reading old publications surplus to requirement. At the very moment you posted, I was reading a ’91 Dominic Lawson article, following a lunch he’d enjoyed at Nicholas Ridley’s Gloucestershire lair. Lawson believed there was no more brutal practitioner of the home truth, more adverse to hiding the hard facts behind a patina of sympathy or politician’s charm (a la Cecil Parkinson). Although Lawson knew Ridley well, even he was taken back by the vehemence of his views on Europe in general and Germany in particular – not least that the joint European monetary policy which Ridley thought ‘a German racket to take over the whole of Europe’. ‘When I look at the institutions to which it is proposed that sovereignty is to be handed over (Brussels), I’m aghast. Seventeen unelected reject politicians – that includes you, Sir Leon – with no accountability to anybody, who are not responsible for raising taxes, just spending money, who are pandered to by a supine parliament which also is not responsible for raising taxes, already behaving with an arrogance I find breathtaking… Britain might just as well conceded sovereignty to Adolf Hitler, frankly.’ The article gets even better the longer it runs. Can you imagine a current minister airing his views so publicly?

  13. Merkel gets more coverage on the BBC than she does in the entire German quality press combined. If she sneezes, it’s on the BBC.

    That’s true: the BBC seem to adore both her and Macron, and detest much of Britain.

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