Merkel urges EU and UK to find Brexit compromise

Chancellor says she’ll work ‘to the last day’ to prevent no deal.

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her partners in the European Union to work with the United Kingdom on a compromise for the country’s divorce from the bloc and avoid a no-deal Brexit.

“We have a responsibility to pursue this separation process responsibly so that in 50 years, people won’t shake their heads and say ‘Why weren’t they able to find a compromise?’,” Merkel told members of her Christian Democrats (CDU) at a party event Saturday in the city of Rostock.

“To the last day, I will work towards finding a treaty-based solution for a deal for the U.K.’s exit, and I will work towards having the best kind of relations afterward,” she added.

On Tuesday, British members of parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU by a record-breaking margin, shrouding the U.K.’s path out of the European Union in doubt.

In her speech on Saturday, Merkel underscored the importance of good relations between the EU and the U.K.

“The United Kingdom is a part of Europe,” Germany’s longtime chancellor said. “We’re bound together by wonderful cooperation in all domestic and security policies. And the U.K. needs to remain a close partner in the future.”


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Germany to UK: We will miss you

Last-minute plea letter signed by MPs, senior figures from the industry and artists urged Brits to remain in EU.

The heads of Germany’s main political parties plus leading figures from business, sport and the arts wrote an open letter to the U.K. imploring the country “from the bottom of our hearts” to reverse Brexit.

In the letter, published in The Times Friday, the “German friends” write that “without your great nation, this Continent would not be what it is today.”

The signatories include conservative leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU) as well as her opposite number Andrea Nahles of the center-left (SPD).

Also on the list are Tom Enders, the CEO of Airbus, Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Reiner Hoffmann, president of the German Trade Union Confederation.

“After the horrors of the Second World War, Britain did not give up on us. It has welcomed Germany back as a sovereign nation and a European power,” they wrote. “This we, as Germans, have not forgotten and we are grateful.”

“Britain has become part of who we are as Europeans,” they wrote, adding, “We would miss the legendary British black humour and going to the pub after work hours to drink an ale. We would miss tea with milk and driving on the left-hand side of the road. And we would miss seeing the panto at Christmas.”

“But more than anything else, we would miss the British people — our friends across the Channel,” they wrote.

Other signatories included pianist Igor Levit; Jens Lehmann, former Arsenal and German national soccer team goalkeeper and Campino, lead vocalist with Die Toten Hosen.


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Maas: EU should discuss whether to reopen Brexit deal

Germany’s Foreign Minister says reopening Brexit deal would need approval of all EU27 members.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the EU will have to talk about whether to reopen the draft Brexit deal, but only if all EU members agreed.

“In the end, it is about the question [of] whether the deal should be reopened, which would need the approval of all [remaining] 27 member states. This is what needs to be discussed now,” Maas said late Thursday on German TV.

“The British have up to now always said what they don’t want. Now they must also say what they want,” Maas said.

The EU has repeatedly warned the U.K. that there would be no renegotiation of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to win support for the deal in the British parliament.

However, maintaining EU27 unity might become more difficult as the U.K.’s departure nears and the risk of a potentially damaging no-deal scenario remains.

Maas revisited the issue early Friday, tweeting that it is “hardly imaginable that the Withdrawal Agreement will be reopened,” adding “we have always made that very clear and the vote in London has not changed that.”


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Chaotic Brexit getting ‘dangerously close’: German business group

BDI president warns of weaker German growth in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Germany’s BDI business group said Thursday it feared a “chaotic Brexit” was “dangerously close,” and warned that such an outcome could dent German economic growth.

“A chaotic Brexit is now getting dangerously close to happening,” BDI President Dieter Kempf said in Berlin. “Companies are looking into the abyss in these times.”

“Businesses on both sides of the English Channel have no choice but to now fully prepare for a hard Brexit,” he said.

Kempf, who was presenting the group’s annual growth report for Europe’s largest economy, said that in the event of an orderly Brexit he expected the German economy to grow by 1.5 percent this year, but he stressed that growth would be weaker than that if there were major disruptions to trade between Britain and the EU.

“There’s no time for hangovers,” Kempf said, referring to Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic parliamentary defeat Tuesday. “The economy now expects quick answers on how to proceed.”

The BDI chief said protectionism and populism were no solutions to European challenges. “The road back to nationalism is a dead end. Europe is not the cause, but the solution to many problems — and the economy is always part of the solution.”


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German minister says UK should be given more time on Brexit

There appears to be no parliamentary majority for a no-deal Brexit, Peter Altmaier says.

Berlin is signaling that London should be given more time to figure out its position after the crushing rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal by the House of Commons.

“The first conclusion I can draw from all I have seen and witnessed is that apparently there is no majority for a no-deal Brexit,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the BBC’s Today program. “This is a very important message because it would calm down markets, it would preserve jobs on both sides of the channel.”

“I have not yet seen a clear position on how to proceed further,” Altmaier said. “The U.K. should have sufficient time to clarify its position and, if needed, the European Union should allow for additional time in order to achieve a clear position by the British parliament and people.”

Asked about a potential extension of Article 50, the minister said that “we should wait until parliament has come to the conclusions, and then we should consider what we can do. When parliament needs more time, then this is something that certainly will have be considered by the European Council. Personally, I would see this as a reasonable request.”

The European Commission made it clear that there is no room for manoeuvre on the deal, Altmeier said, adding, however, that when it comes to an “acceptable approach” on how to move forward, “then of course we should all be ready to cooperate.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was not clear what the U.K. wanted | Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

The minister’s comments echoed a tweet by Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas.

“In terms of things #Brexit, the ball is now in the UK’s court,” the foreign minister wrote. “It didn’t become clear yesterday what they want — just what they don’t want,” he tweeted, noting that “in Germany, we have passed two major legislative packages in order to be prepared for everything. But: We hope for reason.”

In Brussels, officials are cautious about what comes next.

The ball “has been and is still on U.K.’s side,” said one EU diplomat.

For many officials, now is the time to intensify preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit.

“I believe that it’s now up to the British government to clarify further its intentions but as the risk of a no-deal Brexit has unfortunately increased, the EU27 should also take all necessary steps to ensure that they are prepared for all eventualities as the date is approaching,” said another EU diplomat.

Some diplomats said the focus should now be on making sure the bloc’s remaining members stick together.

A third diplomat suggested the bloc should “keep calm, ensure unity among the EU27 and — if wished for — provide our British friends with the phone number of a good shrink.”


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European Green attacks Jeremy Corbyn for ‘damaging’ Brexit stance

‘Labour bears as much responsibility as the Conservatives” for Brexit, says Reinhard Bütikofer.

A senior German MEP said U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has played a “damaging, anti-European, narrow-minded role” in the Brexit “crisis.”

Reinhard Bütikofer of the Greens said in a statement that when it comes to Brexit, “Labour bears as much responsibility as the Conservatives.” His comments were also published on his Facebook page.

He said U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s “extremely unfortunate, in some parts simply helpless, [Brexit] position … masks the damaging, anti-European, narrow-minded role played by Labour Party leadership in this crisis.”

Bütikofer, who has been the European Greens’ co-leader in the European Parliament since 2012. said Corbyn was doing “everything” he could to “make sure Brexit actually takes place.”

Bütikofer, who said Brexit was “tragic,” added that Corbyn’s “petty nostalgic socialism” was “ridiculous.”

Reinhard Buetikofer addresses a party congress of Germany’s Greens in 2009 in Dortmund | Henning Kaiser/AFP via Getty Images

The German also said it would be “democratically obvious and entirely legitimate” to call another referendum.

The British parliament will vote later Tuesday on the deal that May negotiated with the EU. She is expected to suffer a heavy defeat.


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Merkel gave May ‘no assurances’ on Brexit deal in pre-vote phone call

German government refutes reports that Berlin is ready to intervene to help secure success in a second vote.

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not lobby for further concessions to be made to the U.K. ahead of any second vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, a government official in Berlin said Tuesday.

Ahead of a crucial vote in the British parliament on the draft deal — expected to be defeated — British media reported that Merkel told May in a Sunday morning phone call that she would step in to help secure success in any re-run.

“The Chancellor has made no assurances beyond what was discussed in the European Council in December and what is laid down in the letter by Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk,” Merkel’s spokesperson said Tuesday.

The official said U.K. media reports on the phone call, claiming Merkel was ready to talk again on the terms of the U.K.’s exit, had been “incorrectly reproduced.”

The Sun cited a senior British government official as claiming Merkel had agreed “a blood-letting moment” was needed in the Brexit process before further talks could be held.

“Merkel believes there is more the EU can do once the vote is over as no-deal would be a disaster for everyone, and they agreed to talk after it,” the official said in the Sun article.

However, Environment Minister Michael Gove said he did not “recall any such conversation” when asked on the BBC’s Today program whether May had told cabinet colleagues about the offer from Merkel.


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Irish PM expects Brexit deal ‘in the next few weeks’

‘One of the biggest challenges we face as the EU is the challenge of Brexit,’ the Irish PM said.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Friday he remained confident that a Brexit deal would be reached, but added that his country was preparing for a no-deal British exit.

“I still expect that we will have a deal in the next few weeks,” Varadkar told reporters in Bavaria where he was attending a retreat organized by the Christian Social Union (CSU). “But it is only prudent of course that as every day passes that we intensify preparations for no deal and that is very much what Ireland is doing,” he added.

“In Ireland, the EU was a fundamental precondition for our peace process sweeping away borders and differences without threatening anyone’s nationality or loyalties,” Varadkar said. “We cannot allow that to falter now.”

However, Varadkar stressed he wanted the future relationship between the bloc, Ireland and the U.K. to be “as close, comprehensive and ambitious as possible” on the basis that “there is a level playing field and the integrity of our single market is upheld.”

Varadkar said even though the “divorce” has been “traumatic,” it had also brought “those left behind closer together,” hinting at the support offered to Ireland by other member countries.

The Irish prime minister also stressed the importance of the upcoming European election, adding that he supported the Spitzenkandidat — or lead candidate — process for choosing the European Commission president. “Let’s make permanent the Spitzenkandidat system, and democratize choosing candidates for other leading positions within the EU.” Varadkar said he supported the candidacy of the CSU’s Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party’s lead candidate.

Varadkar said this was his first visit to Bavaria and he had “been looking forward to it.”


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‘Judgement day’ looms in Brexit talks

Also making headlines: Michelle Obama’s memoirs and Bavaria’s ‘young, female and Catholic’ government.

United Kingdom

Many papers covered the publishing of Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, as the Brexit deadline drew ever closer.

The Guardian said the book “reveals [her] dread of Trump and how [the news] cycle turns her stomach.” The Independent said Michelle Obama didn’t think her husband could become president because he was “a black man in America.” The Telegraph focused on her meeting with the Queen.

— The BBC news website said ministers were told “judgement day” was looming to finalize a Brexit deal.

The Guardian warned “time is running out” and said Theresa May had told the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London that talks were in the “endgame.”

Germany

German papers focused on the struggling SPD and the new government in Bavaria.

Berliner Morgenpost says SPD leader Andrea Nahles is performing a “U-turn” by dropping her party’s support for the welfare reforms known as Hartz IV. But the paper said the exact changes the SPD wanted to make, other than creating a “friendly” welfare state, in Nahles’ words, were still “unclear.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine said the SPD’s last few months had been characterized by “troubles, heavy defeats and mourning.” Now, the paper said, the party knows there must be “no more moping.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung presented the new Bavarian cabinet — a coalition of CSU and Free Voters led by Markus Söder. The paper described the regional government as “younger, female and Catholic.”

France

French media followed the deadly fire in California as well as developments closer to home.

FranceInfo said the forest fire in California, which has killed 42 people, was “by far the worst in the state’s history.”

Le Figaro said the government’s spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux and Equalities Secretary Marlène Schiappa defended themselves from accusations of overspending in their departments. Both Griveaux and Schiappa went on TV to denounce the figures as false.

Le Parisien covered Monday’s national education strike, but said the threat of jobs being cut only “weakly” mobilized people.

— The website of radio station France Bleu said the police were dealing with the emotional shock of losing Maggy Biskupski, who took her own life with her service weapon Monday night. She came to prominence after the 2016 Viry-Châtillon attack, when a gang of youths threw 13 Molotov cocktails at two police cars in a Paris suburb.

Italy

Italian papers were watching the deputy prime ministers closely.

La Repubblica said bishops were warning the government over its handling of the EU budget dispute.

Il Fatto Quotidiano said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini promised he would “not oblige anyone” to pay penalties under his pension reforms.

Il Giornale investigated where the other Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio might have got a press card.

‘A little lesson for Trump’ across the pond

Also making headlines: AfD expels politician over Hitler photos; Brexit deal possible ‘by Christmas.’

Germany

German papers were awash with news from across the pond, where the Democrats are poised to retake the House of Representatives and the Republicans held their Senate majority.

Frankfurter Allgemeine said the U.S. midterms were “a little lesson for Trump,” adding that the second half of his term in office will now be “more complicated.”

Welt called the election a “vote without a winner,” but said “democracy” had prevailed and predicted the coming years would be “uncomfortable” for Trump.

Bild claimed the U.S. president was getting away with “comparatively moderate losses.” It also ran an interview with Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who warned the challengers vying to replace Angela Merkel as head of the Christian Democrats against pursuing a “fundamental change of course,” claiming a majority of Germans would be against it.

Spiegel reported that the far-right Alternative for Germany has expelled a member of its group in the Berlin state parliament, Jessica Bießmann, after photos emerged of her posing in front of wine bottles that carried “Hitler labels.”

France

The results of the U.S. midterms also dominated headlines in France.

FranceInfo said Trump’s victory was a “lackluster” one, despite his claims of an “immense success.”

Le Parisien reported Trump was “far from being brought down” and claimed his hold over the Senate was his “true victory.”

— TV channel LCI reported that a fifth body has been found after the collapse of three apartment blocks in central Marseille on Monday.

Paris Match published a survey by Ifop that found Prime Minister Édouard Philippe was significantly more popular than President Emmanuel Macron. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon also suffered a sharp drop in popularity, according to the poll.

UK

Donald Trump snatched the limelight in the British press too, but nobody took their eye of Brexit.

The Sun evoked the spirit of World War I by declaring the U.K. Cabinet was told a Brexit deal would be possible “by Christmas,” after a “major shift” by the EU. “Noël deal Brexit” read the headline.

The BBC, however, said Cabinet wanted to reach a deal with the EU by the end of the month. The BBC also reported on a leaked plan for how the government would sell a Brexit deal to MPs and the public.

The Telegraph said the historic “blue wave” Democrats had hoped for in the U.S. midterms had “failed to materialize.”

— The Guardian’s U.S. columnist Richard Wolffe wrote that “Donald Trump’s unchecked hold on power has come to an end.” Deep down, the President will know “his own supporters are just not that into him any more.”

Italy

The midterms made news in Italy but the media also focused on pressing domestic issues.

Rai News said Trump was “disdainful” after the results.

TgCom24 said the Senate was poised to vote on amendments to a controversial security and immigration bill Wednesday morning. The populist 5Star Movement warned the League it “expected loyalty.”