German business leaders have warned Theresa May not to expect their help when it comes to Brexit talks, saying it will be “extraordinarily difficult” to protect UK industry.
The warning comes in the wake of previous claims made by senior British ministers’ that German manufacturers were going to help secure a Brexit trade deal.
Since the election ministers have repeatedly stated that German carmakers, as well as other key European industries including French farmers and winemakers, would lobby their home governments to help secure a deal which maintains tariff-free trade between the UK and EU member states.
But two of Germany’s main industry boses have now stated that their priority during Brexit talks will not be to support Britain’s exit but to “maintain the integrity of the single market” for the remaining members of the European Union.
Speaking to The Observer Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI, the federation of German industries, said: “Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority for the European Union. Europe must maintain the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods, capital, services, and labour.
“It is the responsibility of the British Government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel. Over the coming months, it will be extraordinarily difficult to avert negative effects on British businesses in particular.”
His comments were echoed by Ingo Kramer, president of the confederation of German employers’ associations (BDA) who also told the paper that the continuation of the single market and its principles was the key issue.
He said: “The single market is one of the major assets of the EU. Access to the single market requires the acceptance of all four single market freedoms.
“The UK will remain a very important partner for us, but we need a fair deal for both sides respecting this principle.”
The potential blow to the PM’s Brexit talk plans came just hours after Mrs May announced that several G20 leaders had expressed a “strong desire” for trade deals with the UK after Brexit.
Mrs May had also hailed the potential for “ambitious” deals post-Brexit after one-on-one talks with Donald Trump in which he is reported to have said Britain would “thrive” outside the EU.
A UK government official confirmed on Saturday that Mrs May and Mr Trump spent a “significant” amount of time discussing trade, while Mrs May said it was a “powerful vote of confidence” in Britain that Mr Trump and other leaders had shown their “strong desire” to strike new trade deals.