Brexit breakthrough as Angela Merkel successor won’t have ‘baggage’: ‘It was personal’

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Germany’s leader is due to step down after the country went to the polls last weekend to vote on her successor. Mrs Merkel had already announced she would not seek a fifth consecutive term in office. The man set to replace Mrs Merkel as Chancellor is Olaf Scholz, the leader of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). The politician, who is the country’s current finance minister and vice chancellor, claimed victory in the election to the Bundestag.

His party became the largest in the German Parliament after it took 25.7 percent of the vote.

Mrs Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), led by Armin Laschet, and its Bavarian sister party took just 24.1 percent.

Mr Scholz is now pursuing coalition talks with the Greens, led by Annalena Baerbock, and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

During Mrs Merkel’s 16 years in power the German leader has been heavily involved in the EU.

She is credited with helping the trading bloc through the refugee crisis, during which Germany accepted more than one million asylum seekers in the space of two years.

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The outgoing Chancellor was also party to several key moments in the run-up to Britain’s exit from the Union.

Mrs Merkel held a series of pre-Brexit crunch talks with Britain’s then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

The two leaders discussed what concessions Mr Cameron would need from the EU to achieve his bid of encouraging Britain to vote to remain in the bloc in the 2016 referendum.

According to European and US political expert John Callahan, Mrs Merkel was personally invested in helping Britain avoid Brexit.

Mr Callahan is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College in the US and has worked for the US State Department and in intelligence.

Speaking about Mrs Merkel’s feelings towards Brexit, he told Express.co.uk: “I think there was a personal element to it, sure.”

He claimed that the outgoing Chancellor’s successor could now provide a breakthrough in British-German relations as they will not have the same emotional attachment to Brexit as Mrs Merkel.

He said: “I actually think there could be a lessening of tension with a new person.

“Because in some ways – I’m maybe going out on a limb here – Merkel, she’s the one who received the insult of having a country leave the EU.

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“But it wasn’t them, they may not carry quite the same baggage.”

Mr Callahan also stressed, however, that other EU member states may still give Britain a rough ride over Brexit.

He highlighted France as a source of tension for the UK, due to several of its policies, including imposing a ban on British tourists entering the country earlier this year because of COVID-19.

The French and UK governments have also sparred in recent weeks over migrants crossing the Channel into Britain.

Mr Callahan said: “Germany’s not the only player in that the French are still very, very outraged by Brexit.

“As you can see with everything from allowing migrants to cross the Channel to their stance on British tourism in the COVID crisis.

“There, I think Germany being in a larger entity like the EU means that it’s not just about what their transition is.

“The other countries matter, especially what the Belgians, the French and the Dutch think is really important on Brexit as well.”
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