“Painful, but in the end a fair compromise” – Berlin on Brexit Negotiation

German senior government officials remain optimistic that the UK will stay in EU. Interel Germany's MD, Markus Weidling, reports on a debrief from the German delegation, following the Brexit negotiations in Brussels at the weekend.

One could tell by the looks of the tired faces of the senior government officials returning from the EU summit in Brussels on Monday morning: even for experienced diplomats, it was clearly a very intensive and exhausting experience.

“It was a very unusual summit”, one member of the German delegation said on Monday. “We had only very few formal meetings with all member states around the table. Most of the time the different delegations were sitting together in bilateral informal rounds, trying to find a good solution for Europe”.

At the end this good solution was found – at least from the German perspective: 

“It was painful, but we did find a fair compromise. The British Prime Minister David Cameron got everything he stipulated in his Bloomberg Speech. But at the same time, we found solutions without undermining the core legal frameworks of the European Union”.

To underline their argument, the diplomats dug into the technical details of the agreement, highlighting for example the compromise on tax-financed (in the contrast to insurance-financed) social benefits and the cap on the allowance for children not living In the same country as their parents. These changes to EU regulations are no “Lex Britannia”, the officials said, echoing Chancellor Merkel, who had indicated on the weekend that these new rules might also be introduced in Germany.

But judging by the questions from the interested crowd of journalists, public affairs experts, union representatives and civil servants at the de-briefing, they did not quite share the optimism of the diplomats. And they were not really willing to discuss doom scenarios following a potential Brexit. It took several  attempts before the government officials ventured a comment on Boris Johnson’s positioning and a broader perspective on the outcome of the planned referendum in June.

The representatives expressed their core belief, that Mr. Cameron will be able to build enough support for his position with the Conservatives – especially after this compromise. “There will be no renegotiation! ”

Though admitting it would have been helpful, if Boris Johnson had backed the pro EU-campaign, the delegation emphasized the support of the British business community and the Labour Party for the UK staying in the European Union. “Look at the bookmakers, they provide a very clear indication”, one diplomat said only half-joking.

The same senior official became very serious again, when the microphones were turned off, and there was a chance for a private conversation. “The referendum will be decided on the question of security”, not so much on the deal from last weekend. 

This translates into one core question: The Brits need to decide whether they can meet future challenges better within the EU or without the support of the Union. And here interested observers in Berlin take a clear stand: If the Brits are honest with themselves, they should know that staying in the EU – and making it even stronger – is the only option.

To keep up to date with the latest developments in the UK referendum, visit Interel UK’s Brexit site here. 


Markus Weidling

Managing Partner, Germany

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