The German election could be good news for Brexit

The prospective inclusion of the relatively eurosceptic FDP in Angela Merkel's new coalition combined with a rise in anti-establishment sentiment in Germany could well make a fair and reasonable Brexit deal more likely than not

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Jack Tagholm–Child
On 27 September 2017 13:26

What does the German election result mean for Brexit? A number of things.

First, unfortunately, due to the nature of proportional representation and the outcome of the result it could take months for Germany to form a government.

Second, the Jamaica coalition – so-called as the colours of each party in the coalition would make up those of Jamaica’s flag -- which is likely to be formed, will be composed in part by the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

The FDP should influence Merkel further towards a Brexit policy more favourable to a mutually beneficial free trade deal, and away from the Eurocrat view the UK should be punished for daring to leave their beloved protectionist and bureaucratic European Union.

Let’s look at the results. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany party (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) received, on the current count, 33 percent of the vote.

Martin Schulz’s party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP), were routed, receiving only 20.5 percent of the vote – their worst post-war result. In third place Alternative for Germany (AfD) garnered 12.6 percent of the vote. Below them the FDP took 10.7 percent. Then Die Linke (The Left) and Grüne (Greens) acquired 9.2 percent and 8.9 percent of the vote respectively. The other parties combined received 5.1 percent.

This result has both some positives and negatives for Brexit. This election has moved German politics quite significantly away from the pro-EU ‘centre’. As mentioned above, this election marked the worst result for the SDP since The Second World War, but it was also the worst result for the CDU/CSU since 1949. Although Merkel’s party remains significantly the largest, her position has been weakened, much like May’s after the UK’s General Election.

This fracturing of German politics makes Merkel’s task of forming a coalition sizeable. With the SDP ruling out another ‘grand coalition’ the only option is to form a Jamaica coalition. This will be made up of the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP. This would be an eclectic coalition, to put it mildly.

Unfortunately, this adds an extra degree of uncertainty to the ongoing Brexit negotiations. We will not know what the new German government’s policy will be towards Brexit for some time.

However, this result is by no means a negative outcome overall in relation to our departure from the EU. The high likelihood of the FDP’s inclusion in the forming of a German government marks the entry of a party who are very receptive to the idea of the EU constructing a mutually beneficial trade deal with the UK.

The leader of the FDP, Christian Lindner, argued earlier this year Germany had “an interest in a strong and economically prosperous Great Britain.”

The FDP is also relatively Eurosceptic and will resist the reforms proposed by Emmanuel Macron for a Euro Area Finance Minister, the creation of a European Monetary Fund, and a Euro Area Budget.

They will also provide a good counterweight to the Greens. This should help to put Brexit negotiations on a more positive footing, once a German government is formed.

There is also another factor at play. German politics has just experienced an anti-elite, anti-establishment election result, albeit a worrying one for the future of German politics. The far-right Alternative for Germany – who have been repeatedly compared to the Nazis -- received a substantial portion of the vote share and are on course to get more than 90 seats in the Bundestag.

German voters have made it known in this ane other ways that they are angered by Angela Merkel’s open door immigration policy, and have punished her at the ballot box, in the process also scuppering Merkel and Macron’s rumoured plans to lure the UK into remaining in the European Union by creating a two-tier EU.

The German population at large, whilst they may not have the same brand of Euroscepticism as the people of the UK – after all they do run the EU why would they? – have certainly shown they share many of the same concerns which prompted UK voters to opt for Brexit. This sympathy could well filter its way through to Brexit negotiations, once a coalition is formed.

German voters have expressed their displeasure at Angela Merkel’s handling of the refugee crisis. This has manifested itself as a movement away from the centre in German politics.

Although there will now be a period of instability and uncertainty in Germany as a coalition is formed, this result is not bad for Brexit. It could even help to Get Britain Out of the EU on good terms. 

Jack Tagholm-Child is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out

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