By Mahasweta Muthusubbarayan
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted British Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May at the German Chancellery on Friday, at a time when the European Union (EU) is highly frustrated with the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) slow pace in outlining how exactly it envisages the post-Brexit era. Back in December 2017, Ms May was given a deadline of three months to procure a unified vision for a future trade deal from the British Cabinet but things do not appear to have moved forward so far. The purpose of the meeting was to find common ground between UK and Germany after Ms Merkel criticised the British PM for dithering on what exactly she expects from the EU at the World Economic Forum last month.
A diplomatically significant meeting
The meeting appears to be a part of a British strategy to take the EU negotiations to individual member states before discussions on the transition period and Stage II of the negotiations kick off. The UK had held a similar bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last month, during which critical bilateral agreements on defence, security and treatment of migrants was reached. At the German meeting, Ms Merkel adopted a conciliatory tone, stating that while she still deplored the idea of Britain leaving the EU, she was more curious rather than frustrated with Britain’s delay in outlining how it visualises its future with the EU and calling for more future exchanges between the UK and Germany. As for Ms May, she assured her German counterpart that she would soon come up with a comprehensive and ambitious partnership plan aimed at benefitting both the EU and the UK. The Germany-UK meeting differs from the one with France in the sense that it is extremely light on details and is merely a diplomatic ploy at reducing tensions, with no concrete deals being concluded.
Points of discussion
The two leaders largely focussed on some foreign policy matters. Ms May reiterated that Britain was committed to continuing an unconditional security partnership with the EU even after Brexit. With Ms May scheduled to set out her vision for the security partnership with the EU on Saturday, the chiefs of the British, French and German intelligence agencies have issued an unprecedented joint statement stating that continued security cooperation is essential for countering threats of terrorism, illegal migration and cyber-warfare. Regarding economic cooperation, Ms May stated that while the relationship cannot be continued with the same closeness which existed before Brexit, her country would not resort to cherry-picking during the negotiations and wishes to reach a deal which benefits the entire EU. Ms Merkel, for her part, pointed out that while there was a certain amount of time pressure to progress with the negotiations; all concerned parties would still proceed diligently with the brain-storming. She expressed hope that the outcome would be a fair balance.
The two countries also reaffirmed their commitment to the Iranian nuclear deal and expressed solidarity with the US’ concerns about Iran’s destabilising actions in the Middle East. It was also agreed that Britain would host the Western Balkans conference in July. Joint hope was also expressed that the shared trade history of the two countries could be continued, with the corporate houses of both nations being able to carry out business to the maximum capacity in each other’s territory.
Takeaways from the meet
While Britain is trying to reduce diplomatic hostilities with the powerhouses of the EU, any clear picture regarding the future of Europe still seems a long way off. Britain will seek to maintain its personal clout with Germany and France, in the hope of retaining its influence within EU post-Brexit, but this is highly unlikely at least within the economic sphere as any special deal which appears to favour Britain over other countries will be termed as a ‘sweetheart’ deal liable to attract the attention of the WTO. However, maintenance of good relations will certainly have a positive impact on the aspects of security and citizenship rights.
More than anything else, Britain needs the support of countries like France and Germany, as they hold significant positions in European politics, when it enters into the crucial trade negotiations stage. This phase is likely to be very turbulent and not easy to wrap up, as even the British government is not entirely unified on how it wishes to proceed. It will be even harder for Britain to reach an agreement with 27 other nations. The Germany-UK meeting itself is a reflection of uncertainty and support of other influential countries might help Britain to paint a somewhat rosy picture of a situation which is literally mayhem and come out relatively unscathed.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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