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“We want the UK to remain a close partner, also after Brexit”

14.12.2019 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the Funke Mediengruppe.

Are the UK election results something Germany can be pleased about?

At least we now have clarity about the way ahead for the United Kingdom. We’ve held Brexit negotiations for two and a half years – asking ourselves will it happen, won’t it happen, and when and how will it happen? The constant uncertainty has been a burden on citizens and companies, not only in the UK, but also in Germany and the rest of the EU. Boris Johnson now has a clear mandate to follow through on Brexit. We can then finally again focus on what lies ahead – and it’s high time we did, because we now need to jointly shape our future. We want the UK to remain a close partner, also after Brexit – both economically and in the sphere of foreign and security policy.

So what will Brexit actually look like?

Boris Johnson has announced he intends to now swiftly move ahead with ratification of the negotiated withdrawal agreement. The Tories currently have a clear majority for this in parliament. The European Parliament, too, must yet approve the agreement. So it appears very likely that an orderly withdrawal will occur at the end of January. There will then be a transitional phase that will run until 31 December 2020, so that companies, administrative entities and citizens can adapt to Brexit. This phase can be extended once, by up to two years – and we will have to make the respective decision in June 2020. During this period, the common EU rules will in principle continue to apply to the United Kingdom. That time is to be used to conclude agreements that will govern future relations between the United Kingdom and the EU.

Would the EU welcome and independent Scotland?

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, which means that question doesn’t arise. The door to the EU will certainly remain open for the United Kingdom. Of course, we would have liked for the UK to want to remain in the EU, but we must accept its decision. That’s why this, too, will not be an issue in the short and medium term. The top priority now must be to create a close, balanced and fair future relationship with the United Kingdom.

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