BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Britain could still leave the European Union with a deal but if that proved not to be the case then Berlin was prepared for a disorderly Brexit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stated aim is to persuade the EU to give him a new deal at a summit on Oct. 17-18. The UK parliament has passed a law compelling him to ask Brussels to delay the planned departure on Oct. 31 until 2020 unless he can strike a deal, but Johnson has said he will not request an extension.
“We still have every chance of getting an orderly (Brexit) and the German government will do everything it can to make that possible - right up to the last day. But I also say we are prepared for a disorderly Brexit,” Merkel told parliament.
“But the fact remains that after the withdrawal of Britain, we have an economic competitor at our door, even if we want to keep close economic, foreign and security cooperation and friendly relations,” Merkel added.
Echoing her comments, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told parliament: “We don’t like it (Brexit), but we are not afraid of it because we have long since prepared for it, including the case of a disorderly Brexit.”
The British Chamber of Commerce in Germany (BCCG), which fosters business ties between the two countries, said even though Brexit was causing uncertainty it would be better to delay it.
“We believe the negative consequences of a no-deal Brexit are so enormous that a delay actually makes sense,” BCCG President Michael Schmidt told a news conference.
“That’s not pretty and I would be happy if a deal could be reached before October 31. That would be the best solution. But right now I have my doubts,” he added.
A no-deal Brexit is expected to badly disrupt trade, especially just-in-time supply chains for manufacturers, between Britain and the EU, its biggest export market, and to cause greater legal uncertainty for businesses and citizens.
Britain’s Brexit crisis deepened on Wednesday when Scotland’s highest court of appeal ruled that Johnson’s decision last week to suspend parliament was unlawful. The government said it would appeal the ruling.
Merkel said that once Britain leaves the bloc, the remaining 27 EU members must unite and strengthen the project.
“On the one hand, as Europeans we are weaker with Britain’s exit - that has to be said - but on the other hand, this is the moment to develop new strengths,” Merkel told lawmakers.
She welcomed the new direction given to the EU by Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming chief of the EU executive, and said the bloc must stand up for multilateralism.
“No country in the world can solve its problems alone and if we all work against each other we will not win,” Merkel said. “I believe in win-win situations, if we work together.”
Additional reporting by Michelle Martin and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones