Reactions to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union were quick to pour out of Germany, one of the bloc’s most stalwart proponents. Leaders will now discuss how to prevent a chain reaction in other EU states.
Germany’s vice chancellor and economics minister, Sigmar Gabriel, was one of the first to respond via Twitter shortly after it became clear that the Leave campaign had won enough votes: “Damn! A bad day for Europe,” he wrote.
The results of Thursday’s landmark referendum showed 52 percent of Brits voting to leave the EU, a decision that sent the British pound tumbling to its lowest level in decades and stoked uncertainty over the future of the UK economy.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a fiscal hawk who is also a staunch supporter of the European project, said although he would have preferred to see a different outcome, he would respect the results.
“Now we must look ahead and deal with this situation,” he said. “Together we must make the most of the decision of our British friends.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also expressed his disappointment over the vote, which showed a clear divide between younger voters, who were overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the EU, and older voters, who chose to leave.
Carsten Brzeski, the chief economist for ING-Diba bank tweeted a picture of the Frankfurt skyline early in the morning with the caption: “New financial heart of Europe?”
One of the biggest open questions is whether other populist movements across Europe, such as those in France and the Netherlands, will feel empowered by the British vote and call for their own referendums on EU membership.
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said he would speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on how best to avoid other countries from following suit, but he added that he didn’t think a “chain reaction” was likely.
“I don’t think other countries will feel encouraged to go down this dangerous path,” he told the German broadcaster ZDF.
Car companies weigh in
Germany’s powerful industrialists had also been admonishing Brits not to vote to leave, saying it could have catastrophic repercussions for the economy. Just over half of British automobiles, for instance, are exported to EU states.
Speaking for the German car industry, the German Association of the Automobile Industry (VDA) said it hoped a British exit from the EU wouldn’t effectuate high trade barriers between the UK and continental Europe.
“No would should be interested in making international trade more expensive with tariffs between Great Britain and the mainland,” said VDA President Matthias Wissmann.
BMW said in a statement the consequences of the referendum were still unclear. “It’s clear that a new phase of uncertainty has begun. We don’t expect any immediate impact on our activites in Great Britain.”
Volkswagen also said it was too early to speculate as to the effect a Brexit would have on its operations in the UK. “We are well positioned to adapt to the changing economic and political conditions.”
cjc/hg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)