Dr Joachim Lang: Not preparing for hard Brexit would be 'naive'
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However, managing director Joachim Lang said the risks remain high for companies planning to invest in post-Brexit Britain – because he believes the UK could end up scrapping some parts of the trade deal signed by Mr Johnson in December. And he stressed, more than three months after the UK quit the bloc, many German firms were still experiencing significant upheaval – while taking swipe at Mr Johnson in the bargain for what he referred to as his “absolutely counterproductive” approach.
MEPs are due to vote on the provisional agreement in Brussels today, and are widely expected to give it the thumbs-up.
However, Mr Lang suggested the stakes could not be higher for Germany, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel – and said nothing could be taken for granted.
He said: “The European Parliament is urged to approve the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK.
“Given the political realities, the agreement is the best possible outcome for the subsequent regulation of relations with Great Britain.”
Mr Lang explained: “Companies with extensive international business urgently need more legal certainty.
“Despite the best possible preparation, German companies are still struggling with customs formalities and logistical hurdles a good 100 days after Brexit.”
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Entrepreneurial trust in Great Britain as a business location can only be restored through adherence to the contract.
Mr Lang said the German business community expected Mr Johnson’s Government to “send a clear signal” that all obligations of the agreement will be met.
He added: “It is absolutely counterproductive for the British Prime Minister to keep threatening to breach treaties.
“Entrepreneurial trust in Great Britain as a business location can only be restored through adherence to the contract.”
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Mr Lang also admitted: “Even after a positive parliamentary decision in Strasbourg, the investment risk for companies will be high.
“There is still the risk that the UK will suspend or even terminate parts of the agreement.”
MEPS were today debating the issue in the European Parliament prior to a vote later today.
Approval would be the final step towards the ratification of the agreement, struck in December after more than four years of tense negotiations.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the trade agreement gave each side tools – dispute settlement and the potential imposition of tariffs – to ensure compliance with the accord and the Brexit divorce deal.
Speaking at the start of the debate, she said: “Let me be clear: we do not want to have to use these tools.
“But we will not hesitate to use them if necessary.”
Once parliament has given its consent, the 27 EU countries are expected to rubber-stamp the deal.
The bloc will then inform Britain and the trade agreement will formally be concluded.
The lawmakers are also voting on a 17-page accompanying resolution, calling Brexit a “historic mistake” and urging the Commission to continue its legal action against London.
The text says parliament also regrets the limited scope of the deal, without cooperation on foreign policy or student exchanges, and noting that opportunities for Britain’s largely service-based economy are “vastly reduced.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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