German President rounds on UK Government and Brexit as Foreign minister meets Johnson in London
THE GERMAN PRESIDENT Frank-Walter Steinmeier has condemned Brexit as one of the “worst symptoms” of the rising tide of populism in his first speech to the European Parliament today (Tuesday 4 April).
His comments came as the German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, an ally of an independent Scotland in the EU, arrived in London to discuss security, finance, Brexit and the refugee crisis with UK foreign minister Boris Johnson, London major Sadiq Khan and the UK’s minister for Brexit David Davis.
Steinmeier called Brexit “bitter and irresponsible” warning that the UK would suffer without the economic and political capital of the EU.
“It is irresponsible to say that in this world, a European country can make its voice and its economic interests heard without the EU.” Frank-Walter Steinmeier
He said: “Europe has never been a walk in the park. But it is irresponsible to say that in this world, a European country can make its voice and its economic interests heard without the EU.
“Populists paint the world black and white and turn fears into political capital…but in truth we need to seriously look for ways to build bridges over those trenches.”
The president was referring explicitly to the ethno-nationalistic and anti-immigrant rhetoric that has marked the election of Donald Trump as US president and a large part of the Brexit vote in sections of England and Wales. With the elections in France next month, he argued that Europeans should see these movements as based on hatred and “bitter empty rhetoric.”
“Populists paint the world black and white and turn fears into political capital.” Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Tensions have grown between both Trump, the UK Government and the German Government as the former has accused Germany of “not paying its way in NATO” and the later cause diplomatic ripples in Berlin after Theresa May’s Brexit letter asked for preferential treatment on for UK banks and appeared to blackmail the EU over security cooperation in return for favourable trade deals.
Steinmeier, who was previously foreign minister before the social democrat Sigmar Gabriel called for greater unity in the EU and for Brexit to be the start of a new common purpose. He further criticised racial nationalism as petty saying that those who supported it, were digging trenches – a loaded reference to the fist world war.
The German president will go to Greece for his first state visit which will put his comments about EU unity to the test. Germany and its politicians have promoted the idea of European solidarity but tensions remain high between Germany and Greece given the later’s debt crisis and Berlin’s role as one of its major creditors. The Greek Government is presently still resisting Germany’s push for unpopular austerity measures.
Picture courtesy of Georg von Harrach
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