The withdrawal agreement is not open to renegotiation

The German government welcomes the fact that the House of Commons has rejected the idea of leaving the European Union with no deal. It now expects Prime Minister Theresa May to deliver specific explanations to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

EU and British flags

The Federal Government has made preparations for a disorderly Brexit

Photo: Colourbox

Federal government spokesperson Steffen Seibert welcomed the fact that the House of Commons has voted against a no-deal Brexit. "That has long been our conviction." He said that the German government has noted that the House of Commons requires greater clarity about the future border regime between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The withdrawal agreement is not, however, open for renegotiation, he said.

On the evening of Tuesday 29 January 2019 the House of Commons voted to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement with the EU, while also voting against a no-deal Brexit.

Preventing an unregulated Brexit

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier, warned of the consequences of an unregulated Brexit. In Berlin, he spoke of his great concern that a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU at the end of March could lead to "significant economic upheaval". The German government will do all it can to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The coming days must be used to this end.

The new vote in the House of Commons followed its massive rejection of the deal negotiated by the EU and the UK government on 15 January. Following that vote, Opposition and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn  called a vote of no confidence in the government of Theresa May. The Prime Minister survived the vote one day later.

Minimising the fallout

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her regret that the House of Commons had rejected the withdrawal agreement. On 16 January she stressed that she would continue to work for an orderly solution to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. "We want to keep the damage – and there will be damage in the wake of the withdrawal – to an absolute minimum," she said. That is why the German government will continue to endeavour to come to a orderly solution. The Chancellor stressed, however, that Germany is prepared for any no-deal Brexit.

On 29 March 2019, precisely two years after the United Kingdom officially informed the EU of its intention to leave, the UK’s membership of the European Union is set to end. It is still unclear whether there will be an orderly or a disorderly withdrawal.

What will happen if there is an orderly withdrawal?

If the withdrawal agreement is ratified, there will be a transition period until 31 December 2020. On 17 January the German Bundestag approved the government bill regulating this transition period. It has two main elements:

  • Essentially, the United Kingdom would continue to be treated like an EU member state under German law for the duration of the transition period. In terms of citizenship law too, the current regulations would continue to apply until the end of 2020: British citizens applying for naturalisation in Germany and German nationals applying for British citizenship during the transition period will still be able to hold dual nationality – even if the final decision on their application is not taken until after the end of the transition period.
  • The 21-month transition period is designed to give businesses and authorities time to put in place the necessary changes. To this end EU law will continue to apply in the United Kingdom. The transition period is to be used to agree on the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

What does a disorderly withdrawal mean?

Should the United Kingdom withdraw without an agreement, also known as the no-deal Brexit, the UK will automatically cease to be a member of the European Union on 30 March 2019. As of this date, the country would become a "third state" for the EU and the body of EU law, known as the "acquis communautaire", would cease to apply in the United Kingdom, with far-reaching consequences for the people, the economy and the administration.

German government taking precautionary action

The German government is taking the need to prepare for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU extremely seriously. It is taking precautions for every possible scenario, including a no-deal Brexit. It is coordinating its actions closely with European partners and the European Commission.