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March 12, 2018

German industry is starting to panic about Brexit

We have noted before that the German media have been overemphasising the strength of the Brexit revocation lobby in their reporting. One of the consequences of this skewed reporting is that people underestimated the likelihood of the Brexit event, and that they have not started to prepare in time. German industry is now slowly waking up to the idea that they may be facing a dual onslaught - US tariffs, and an end to the customs union with the UK. These are two of Germany's three largest export markets. FAZ notes this morning that the president of the German federation of industry (BDI), Joachim Lang, is demanding a customs union with the UK. The EU is playing the same card indirectly - by insisting that Northern Ireland stays inside the customs union. But these are dangerous demands because they might backfire.

It is possible that the UK agrees to a customs union, but outside pressure is not helping. There is going to be an amendment to the trade bill, at some point in the spring, to demand a customs union agreement. If that amendment is accepted, we would assume that Theresa May would resign, and make way for a Tory successor who might either assemble a different majority, agree to a customs union, or start the process towards early elections. Several outcomes are possible - including in theory a majority to revoke Brexit. Our baseline scenario is that the amendment will be narrowly rejected, though.

The biggest risk to the Brexit process has always been political miscalculations on both sides. The UK clearly overestimated its ability to split the EU, and underestimated the cohesion of the European Council. But the EU also misjudges important aspects of UK politics. The EU's heavy-handed interference in the highly unstable political situation of Northern Ireland is ill-advised. The EU is right to insist that the border issue needs to be addressed - but the time to do so is not in the Article 50 withdrawal agreement, but in the subsequent trade agreement. Withholding the EU's assent to the withdrawal agreement, as Donald Tusk is threatening, will only increase the risk of a cliff-edge Brexit in 2019 - a point at which EU solidarity will be massively strained. The statement by the BDI is already an indication that industry is no longer willing to subordinate its own interests to EU-level power politics. And we don't think that Tusk will be able to uphold this position all the way through. 

FAZ cites a study by Oliver Wyman and Clifford Chance, according to which EU companies face tariffs and regulatory costs of €37bn under a WTO deal, while UK companies will be hit to the tune of €32bn. The article notes that the EU's costs are spread between 27 countries. But we argued before that this is a rather short-sighted argument. If the UK receives more money in tariffs than it pays, the government can fully compensate UK companies for the losses. The UK will, after all, no longer be subject to EU state-aid restrictions in this scenario.

One point the Germans keep on making is that there is really not a lot of time left. They are critical of the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations - a criticism that is directed at both sides. We agree with Chris Lockwood (@chrislockwd) from the Economist, an ardent Remainer, who tweeted over the weekend: 

"This is the Brexiteers’ plan. They want to run out the clock, so that there is no time to scrutinise the deal before exit day. After that, it can’t be reversed."

This is also consistent with a Bloomberg story quoting UK officials as saying they do not expect a Brexit deal until two months before exit day. We do not know whether this reflects the government's view, but it would explain why the UK is in no rush right now, and why May is keeping up a negotiation position - her three baskets - which the EU will obviously not accept. 

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  • April 08, 2020
  • Is Greece ready for virus spread in migrant camps?
  • On the future of the EU - the final part 12 of our series
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • April 08, 2019
  • Welcome to the new Brexit grand coalition
  • Waiting for Macron's next move
  • October 08, 2018
  • A renewed willingness on both sides to cut a Brexit deal
  • Latvian politics in turmoil after huge populist gains
  • April 09, 2018
  • Orbán gets his supermajority
  • Riding the wave of resistance
  • The EU’s self-defeating strategy
  • October 09, 2017
  • UK is starting to prepare for a no-deal Brexit
  • Why Germany will resist meaningful eurozone reform
  • April 13, 2017
  • Did Russia influence the Brexit vote?
  • All good between Germany and the US now?
  • October 18, 2016
  • The self-destruction of Francois Hollande
  • Brexit psychotherapy
  • At least three candidates for the PvdA leadership
  • The unbelievable hypocrisy of Mario Monti
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 22, 2020
  • Why we don’t think this deal is historic
  • March 10, 2020
  • Virus math
  • October 29, 2019
  • People's Vote descends into Civil War
  • CDU at odds on dealing with extreme parties
  • June 19, 2019
  • What the US-Iran standoff tells us about the EU
  • Is Germany withholding information on right-wing extremism?
  • February 08, 2019
  • Macron turns stand-off with Italy into a game changer
  • Is there a strategic intent behind Macron's decision?
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • May 25, 2018
  • Rejected by US, Germany is turning towards China...
  • ...and France is turning to Russia
  • UK ties Galileo to security partnership
  • Germans are discovering miniBoTs
  • January 17, 2018
  • Labour smashes No Brexit dreams
  • A new political bargain in Portugal?
  • September 13, 2017
  • Why the Turkey negotiations will continue
  • May 10, 2017
  • PSOE primary campaign in full swing
  • Czech government crisis escalates
  • Backroom dealing on electoral reform in Italy
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 25, 2016
  • The costs of Brexit
  • Redefining corruption
  • Greek government shocked, shocked...
  • The costs of Brexit
  • Redefining corruption
  • Greek government shocked, shocked...
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 27, 2020
  • Germany is one of the most unequal countries in Europe
  • June 15, 2020
  • US and Germany step up fight over NordStream 2
  • Macron's agenda for the next two years
  • May 05, 2020
  • Germany's cash-for-clunkers
  • What about the summer holidays?
  • March 27, 2020
  • Watch out for the coalition of the south
  • The race to save jobs
  • February 19, 2020
  • Degrowth isn't enough to stem climate change
  • Is Renzi finished?
  • Welcome to Germany, Tesla
  • January 13, 2020
  • Libya - the new playground for diplomatic posturing
  • NI has a government at last
  • December 09, 2019
  • The next three days
  • November 04, 2019
  • Brexit tactical voting is happening - on both sides
  • Merkel promises 1m charging stations - but doesn't tell us how
  • September 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 25, 2019
  • What should the EU do now?
  • Could the grand coalition break down over defence spending?
  • June 25, 2019
  • What’s behind the dispute about Weber
  • May 27, 2019
  • The rising chances of a no-deal Brexit
  • April 29, 2019
  • Labour's national executive to vote on second referendum
  • What the debate about electric cars says about Germany
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • March 06, 2019
  • Weber toughens his stance against Orbán
  • The European loneliness of Emmanuel Macron
  • You really should not take EU's willingness to extend for granted
  • February 08, 2019
  • Macron turns stand-off with Italy into a game changer
  • Is there a strategic intent behind Macron's decision?
  • January 14, 2019
  • Our Brexit predictions
  • 1789 - Macron's version
  • Tsipras calls confidence vote after Kammenos pulls out
  • December 19, 2018
  • May’s strategy and the consequences of failure
  • Belgium loses its government
  • November 27, 2018
  • Responding to the yellow-vest protest
  • The New Hanseatic tensions are a foretaste of things to come
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • September 06, 2018
  • City of Frankfurt bans diesel
  • A fairytale meeting for Macron in Luxembourg
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 25, 2018
  • Future of euro debate: can the ECB do the heavy lifting?
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • June 25, 2018
  • Trump's car tariff to come early
  • On the lack of a sharp focus in the eurozone debate
  • June 12, 2018
  • The new Italian battle lines
  • A Brexit rebellion squashed, for now
  • Wauquiez - a party leader without followers
  • May 30, 2018
  • Italian pro-Europeans repeat UK Remainers' error
  • Commission shakes up structural funds
  • Democracy lessons from the Irish referendum
  • May 18, 2018
  • Ciudadanos pressures Rajoy on Catalonia
  • The EU's bluff on Iran sanctions
  • What the Brexit deal will look like
  • May 08, 2018
  • Macron and the technocratic republic
  • Philippe's silent offer to the SNCF unions
  • On the ordoliberal utopia of a debt-free state
  • April 26, 2018
  • Philippe and the protest movements
  • Scorched earth on Galileo
  • A customs union option
  • And finally, the emission-less diesel car
  • April 17, 2018
  • CDU's executive committees reaffirms eurosceptic position
  • Macron in Strasburg
  • April 10, 2018
  • A mood of radicalisation in France
  • The German far right makes inroads into trade unions
  • On the absurdity of a new centrist party in British politics
  • April 03, 2018
  • Is the time for Brexit revocation running out?
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • March 19, 2018
  • Waiting for Germany
  • Russia’s friends
  • Can the Commons force an extension of the Art 50 period?
  • March 16, 2018
  • Pellegrini to succeed Fico
  • Slovenia may go to early elections in late May
  • The case for crypto-currencies
  • March 14, 2018
  • The geopolitics of trade war
  • A European labour authority
  • On Novichok
  • March 13, 2018
  • When events intrude: Novichok edition
  • Fico loses Kalinák, might lose himself
  • March 12, 2018
  • German industry is starting to panic about Brexit