Brexit will have 'consequences' for the UK says Olaf Scholz
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Germany’s Chancellor-in-waiting reached a deal with his coalition partners this week to usher in fresh leadership for the country after 16 years of Angela Merkel’s government. Mr Scholz will lead a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens. It comes after his Social Democrat Party emerged with a narrow victory at the Bundestag election in September.
Two months of intense talks between the three parties resulted in a deal, which was announced on Wednesday.
Climate protection is a major plank of the coalition agreement, including weening Germany off its heavy reliance on coal power.
Mr Scholz used his maiden speech as Chancellor-in-waiting to urge Germans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, vowing that his administration would endeavour to tackle the pandemic.
The incoming leader, who is an advocate of the EU, did not mention Brexit at the press conference.
However, unearthed comments from Mr Scholz reveal how the UK’s departure from the trading bloc was once among his chief concerns.
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In a November 2018 interview with the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, Mr Scholz warned of the potential economic devastation for both sides if the UK were to crash out of the EU without a deal.
He said this was an outcome Germany was “preparing very carefully” for.
He added: “Both scenarios are posing challenges for us, but we can and will manage them.”
He also called on London and Brussels to agree on a deal that would mitigate the economic disruption.
Mr Scholz served as Mrs Merkel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
He was interviewed as the UK Government – then led by Prime Minister Theresa May – and Brussels were hammering out the final details of the UK’s Brexit divorce deal.
Both parties were working towards a Brexit deadline of March 2019, although the UK did not leave the EU until January 31 last year.
At the time, Mrs May had been trying to negotiate the ‘backstop’, determining how Northern Ireland would trade after Brexit.
But her proposed deal, which would have kept the entire UK closely aligned to EU customs rules, with some changes in Northern Ireland, was rejected by Parliament.
The defeat for the Government sealed her exit from Downing Street, and she was replaced by Boris Johnson.
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Northern Ireland’s trading situation is still being negotiated by the UK and the EU as the two sides attempt to reach a new agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Political expert John Callahan told Express.co.uk that, as the UK-EU negotiations continue, any discussions Mr Johnson has with Mr Scholz will likely be similar to with Mrs Merkel.
The expert is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College in the US and has also worked for the US State Department and in intelligence.
He said: “That’s how the tea leaves look to me, and I’m thinking the same for [US President] Joe Biden.”
He also said that Germany’s dealings with Brexit Britain under its new coalition were unlikely to be a radical departure from Mrs Merkel, but did stress that the parties are pro-EU.
He added: “Let’s face it, Berlin is Europe, and it’s been headed that way for a long time, and the UK’s departure from Europe in some ways hastened that.
“In particular, the way that it was a counterbalance to Berlin. Whether Paris is a good counterbalance, that’s a different debate.”
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