The U.K. will have to “assume the consequences” of weaker economic ties with the EU at the end of the Brexit process, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, hardening her tone amid faltering negotiations on an agreement on future ties.
After pulling out of the EU on 31 January, the UK has been working with Brussels on setting up an advantageous trade relationship with the European block after the transition period which will be up at the end of this year.
The government of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to be able to define Britain’s stance after the country withdraws from the European Union, but, Mrs. Merkel warned in an interview with the Europa network, “thereafter he will, of course, have to accept the consequences.”
“We must get away from the idea that it is we who define what the United Kingdom may wish,” noted Mrs. Merkel, who has always sought to achieve an outcome that averts a hard Brexit. “The United Kingdom defines and we, as the EU27, make an appropriate response,” added the German Chancellor, whose country becomes the next rotating president of the European Union Council on 1 July.
“If the United Kingdom does not want regulations comparable to that of Europe in terms of the environment, the labour market or social norms, our relations will lose intensity,” she said.
Meanwhile, the EU faces tough negotiations on the 750-billion-euro recovery fund meant to help the European countries worst affected by the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
This fund “cannot resolve all of Europe’s problems” but the EU must “act quickly in the face of the pandemic” given job losses due to COVID-19, which could be very high in some countries, Mrs. Merkel said, adding that this could have “an explosive political impact” and increase the threat against democracy.
“For Europe to survive, its economy must also survive,” the German chancellor stressed.