Merkel fires tough­est Brexit mes­sage

Financial Times USA - - FRONT PAGE - STE­FAN WAGSTYL — BER­LIN

The Ger­man chan­cel­lor has warned the UK it will pay a price if it lim­its mi­gra­tion from the EU af­ter Brexit, in her tough­est mes­sage so far about the po­ten­tial costs to Bri­tain of leav­ing the bloc.

The UK will pay a price if it lim­its mi­gra­tion from the EU af­ter Brexit, An­gela Merkel warned yes­ter­day in the Ger­man chan­cel­lor’s tough­est mes­sage yet about the po­ten­tial costs to Bri­tain of leav­ing the bloc.

“This is not meant ma­li­ciously, but you can­not have all of the good things and then say there’s a limit of 100,000 or 200,000 EU cit­i­zens al­lowed to en­ter the UK,” the chan­cel­lor said in Ber­lin. “That won’t work. At that point, we’ll have to think about which re­stric­tions we make on the Euro­pean side to com­pen­sate for that.”

In un­com­pro­mis­ingly stark com­ments, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor high­lighted the prob­lems in­volved in every­thing from in­dus­trial sup­ply chains and bor­der cross­ings for 250,000 pets a year to the risk of re­newed vi­o­lence in North­ern Ire­land.

Ber­lin is con­cerned that anti-EU rhetoric in the UK gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign could fur­ther poi­son the at­mos­phere and in­crease the risks that the exit ne­go­ti­a­tions could quickly col­lapse.

Ms Merkel in­sisted that she did not want to pun­ish Bri­tain. But she made clear that the UK should not ex­pect spe­cial treat­ment in a sharp re­sponse to re­cent at­tacks on the EU from lead­ing Bri­tish Brex­iters, in­clud­ing the for­eign sec­re­tary, Boris John­son, who claimed last week Brus­sels was try­ing “to bleed this coun­try white”.

She warned about the dan­gers of the UK pos­si­bly try­ing to seek eco­nomic ad­van­tage by opt­ing out of the EU’s com­mon em­ploy­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion rules.

“We must con­sider how we will re­act when nat­u­rally the com­pet­i­tive land­scape can shift.”

She added: “We are tied to­gether by very finely wo­ven chains of added value. If ev­ery part had to go through cus­toms, these chains would be bro­ken and sup­pli­ers could re­lo­cate . . . It will be very very com­pli­cated, be­cause every­thing must be reg­u­lated.”

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