‘U.K. must accept weaker economic ties with EU’

Merkel hardens tone on future relations

Published - June 27, 2020 10:20 pm IST - Frankfurt am Main

 Angela Merkel.

Angela Merkel.

Britain will have to “accept the consequences” of having weaker economic ties with the European Union (EU) because of Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday. Ms. Merkel hardened the tone from Berlin as Germany and its EU partners strive to draw up an agreement on future relations between Brussels and London after Britain’s departur.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to be able to define the scope of those relations but “thereafter he will of course have to accept the consequences — that is, an economy less tightly linked” with its neighbours, Ms. Merkel said in an interview with the Europa newspaper alliance.

After leaving the EU, Britain and Brussels have been working on establishing new trade links to come into force once a post-exit transition period expires at year’s end. Germany is meanwhile to take over the EU’s rotating presidency for six months from July 1. “We must get away from the idea that it is we who define what the United Kingdom may wish,” indicated Ms. Merkel. “The United Kingdom defines and we, as the EU27, make an appropriate response,” said Ms. Merkel.

“If the United Kingdom does not want regulations comparable to that of Europe in terms of the environment, the labour market or social norms, our relations will lose intensity,” she observed.

The EU must additionally work its way through tough negotiations on a €750 billion ($800 billion) post-coronavirus euro recovery fund for countries worst hit by the pandemic.

For Ms. Merkel, the fund “cannot resolve all of Europe’s problems” but the bloc must “act quickly in the face of the pandemic given the huge hit the virus has dealt jobs and the economy.”

She warned that the result could have an “explosive political impact” that could threaten democracy. “For Europe to survive, its economy must also survive,” she concluded.

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