The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been on tour in Germany with a very specific purpose: to reassure Germans that Brexit doesn't mean the break-up of a excellent relationship.
Prince William, after speaking a few words in German, told guests at a British embassy garden party: This relationship between UK and Germany really matters, it will continue despite Britain's recent decision to leave the European Union. I am confident we will remain the firmest of friends.
But since the British election, German politicians are more troubled than ever about Brexit. The German council for foreign relations' director, Daniela Schwarzer, in an interview with the BBC said: Policymakers in Berlin are surprised and worried at the degree of confusion in London, the lack of clarity as to the strategy the UK wants to follow.
There is a lot surprise about how the negotiations are being handled and the somewhat incoherent messages which come out of London.
Germany is just one country in the European Union - but it is first among equals, its chancellor by far the most senior politician, with a new and determined ally in President Macron, who's refreshed the Franco-German alliance.
Even before Brexit became a reality, there's been an argument, almost an assumption, that German industry would put pressure on German politicians to argue for a good deal for the UK, access to the European market without having to abide by the rules.
Most German businesses tend to lobby government through powerful trade associations. And one industry has more horsepower than any other.
Germany's glittering car industry is an industrial giant with immense political clout and a 400bn euro turnover, employing 800,000 people. And the relationship with the UK is very important. One in seven cars exported from Germany goes to the UK, its single biggest market.
Matthias Wissman, the president of the VDA, the German automotive industry association was straight and clear on the issue: What we want is to keep the European Union of the 27 together, he says. That is the first priority. Second priority is to have a trade area with the UK with no tariff barriers, no non-tariff barriers. That is possible if the UK understands what the preconditions are.
We want a good deal for Britain, but the best deal for Britain would be to stay in the customs union. Anything else would be worse for both sides; the best thing would be to stay in the internal market like Norway.
He accused pro-Brexiteers of making totally unrealistic promises. I see a lot which is astonishing for a friend of Great Britain. I miss the traditional British pragmatism. We would like to have it in the future, but I see more and more ideological points of view which make pragmatism very difficult and unfortunately in both parties, Conservative and Labour.
Klaus Deutsch of the federation of Germany industry, the BDI, makes it clear they did not want Brexit in the first place and would like the UK to stay in the single market and observe all the rules. But that's not the government's intention, so what follows?
We would favor a comprehensive agreement. But the most important thing is legal certainty in the period from A to B. If you don't have a transition period of many years, then there will be a huge disruption to all sorts of businesses.
The concern of business is unless you get a clear cut and legally safe agreement, you can't sell pharmaceuticals, or cars or what have you, across the Channel, you have to stop business, divest, change business models.”
Top CommentsDisclaimer & comment rules
Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!