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Brexit and budget top lively Bundestag debate led by Merkel

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Brexit and budget top lively Bundestag debate led by Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel presents her voting card in the Bundestag on Wednesday. Photo: DPA
12:50 CET+01:00
It was a lively day in German politics on Wednesday, as politicians debated Brexit, the budget, migrants - and even the Alternative for Germany's (AfD)suspicious party donations.

In an impassioned speech, Angela Merkel raised concerns about the state of the world, where individual interests and a return of nationalism make it increasingly difficult to conclude global agreements.

It was Merkel's first speech in the Bundestag since she announced she was stepping down as leader of the centre right Christian Democrats (CDU) after 18 years. 

The Cold War world was terrible, "but it was clear", Merkel said. Today, it is not clear how nations will act with each other. She said a strong Europe was right for Germany. "German interest means always thinking along with the others," she said.

Despite difficult compromises, Merkel relies on the approval of the 27 EU states for the Brexit treaty with the UK.

SEE ALSO: Merkel defends UN migration pact amid party split

"We agree to this withdrawal treaty," Merkel said. "We still have reservations from Spain," she said with reference to the Gibraltar question.

SEE ALSO: Merkel 'very happy' Brexit draft deal has been reached

She hoped that there would be a solution by the Brexit summit next Sunday.

Centre left Social Democrats (SPD) leader Andrea Nahles said that Britain's withdrawal from the EU was a turning point.

She said there must be "more cooperation" within Europe. Nahles renewed her proposal for a European-wide unemployment insurance.

SEE ALSO: 'I'm still holding out for a people's vote': The Brexit reaction from Germany

Plans for this, however, have been met with resistance from coalition partner CDU and its sister party the Christian Socialists (CSU).

AfD payments brought up

Meanwhile, AfD faction leader Alice Weidel went into defence mode over the debate about dubious donations received by the party from abroad and stressed that the money had been paid back.

Co-leaders of AfD Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland hug. Photo: DPA

Weidel has come under increasing pressure since German media revealed recently that the AfD's Lake Constance branch received 18 donations from a Swiss pharmaceutical firm, PWS, between July and September 2017, totalling some 150,000 Swiss francs (€130,000 euros).

On Wednesday Weidel said: "There were no cash cases that were carried back and forth and whose contents disappeared into drawers and whose whereabouts no one remembers."

The AfD co-leader stressed that the matter had not cost the taxpayers a single cent. With a view to her own affair, she stressed: "Yes, we made mistakes. We recognized it, reacted and repaid it. The Constance public prosecutor's office is now investigating Weidel on suspicion of an infringement of the party law.

Merkel's dry response to Weidel received a round of applause. "The nice thing about free debates is that everyone gets to talk about what they think is important for the country," she said.

Focus for 2019 budget will be families

With a total expenditure of €356.4 billion euros, €3.24 billion euros have been budgeted for 2019.

SEE ALSO: Why pressure is growing on the German government to cut your taxes

On Friday, the federal budget, which is to get by without new debts for the sixth time in a row, is to be finally adopted by the members of parliament.

Since 2014, it has been possible every year to ensure that expenditure does not exceed income - this is also due to the bubbling tax revenues. But due to the good revenue situation, there has been massive criticism that the coalition is not easing the burden on citizens by lowering taxes.

SEE ALSO: Should people without children be forced to pay more tax in Germany?

However, despite ongoing repayments, the debt burden is still around two trillion euros - around €26,520 per capita.

In addition to the relief for health insurance contributions and pension improvements, the focus will be on families in 2019: a relief package of €9.8 billion euros per year will be put together.

Thousands of planned new jobs with the security authorities and customs will also be discussed.

However, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) leader Christian Lindner accused the federal government of unsound budget policies. He accused the coalition of "creating demands that will strangle the budget in the future".

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