Brexit Negotiations and the Franco-German Alliance

Brexit negotiations may be one of the largest and most historic Britain will have to face. May will have to negotiate what will eventually be the foundations of Anglo-European relations in the future. It can be argued that the Community has been built of a Franco-German alliance and both these nations will be central to Brexit negotiations. This is reflected by the fact that May visited both France and Germany already in her short tenure as Prime Minister.  German Chancellor was quick to rule out any talks over Brexit until Britain trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which Britain will not trigger in 2016.  This is to allow the Conservative government to fully understand what needs to be negotiated, while also provides time to the Labour Party to resolve their internal disputes in the wake of Brexit. A functioning opposition in the House of Commons will be essential for the forthcoming negotiations.

The government’s first task is to assure global businesses and potential investors that Britain is in a stable position. This was seen in the reports regarding the FTSE recovery, Australia willingness to negotiate a trade deal with Britain post Brexit, and large companies suggesting they will continue to invest in Britain.  May will attempt to build on these early positives as much as possible prior to triggering Article 50. The more Britain can show the EU that Britain has options outside of Europe the stronger position Britain will be able to negotiate from. Moreover, with elections set to occur in both France and Germany in 2017 this will again greatly impact the manner in which negotiations are conducted. Even if Article 50 is triggered at the start of 2017, French elections are set to occur in April while German elections will be in August. This could greatly change the dynamics of Brexit negotiations.

Over Cameron’s premiership it can be seen that Merkel has been reserved in her decision-making, and good relations with Britain are in Germany’s interest. This is because Britain has been a large customer of German industry, particularly the car industry which is a cornerstone of the German economy.  Last year almost a fifth of German cars were exported to the UK and German car manufactures have raised these concerns.  Matthias Wissmann, president of the VDA, Germany’s automotive industry association, stated:

“Keeping Britain in the EU is more significant than keeping Greece in the euro.”[1]

This will again provide Britain with leverage in negotiations, other issues that will benefit Britain in negotiations pertaining to Germany. This will include matters regarding security, as Britain will still have to be involved over the security matters that the EU will face.  Lastly, Germany will also be concerned with ensuring that Brexit does not impact the already weakened Eurozone.  Thus it can be seen from this that Britain could be in a strong position when Brexit negotiations occur in regards to Germany.

The situation in regards to France will be much different with France’s President Francois Hollande making it clear that he wants Britain to pay a heavy price for Brexit. This view is partly driven by the upcoming elections in France, as the President of the French National Front, Marine Le Pen wants France to also hold a referendum on EU membership. It can also be argued that France’s policy over recent years has been to weaken the City of London. This can be seen through France consistently lobbying for companies, and British banks to re-locate to Paris or other Eurozone countries

France and Germany will also try to ensure that the EU member states stay committed to the Community, if not attempt to deepen integration. Support for the Community has been solidified in certain countries such as Denmark where the number of voters who want a referendum has dropped to 32%. This will mean the EU states may be going into negotiations strongly committed to the Community. They may also want to make an example of Britain, and the effects of leaving the Community.

Overall, the matter will be extremely complex due to the elections set to occur in France and Germany who will be playing a leading role in negotiations. Britain has voted to leave the EU, however, it is also unclear what deal they want, and thus negotiations will not formerly begin until 2017. Until then both EU member states and Britain will trying to manoeuvre into a stronger position to negotiate from.