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GERMANY

‘What a Brexshit!’: How Germany is reacting to the Brexit deal defeat

As the UK parliament gets ready to debate a vote of no confidence on Wednesday evening after MPs voted against Theresa May's Brexit deal by a huge majority, we look at what Germany has to say.

'What a Brexshit!': How Germany is reacting to the Brexit deal defeat
Photo: DPA

It was the biggest defeat ever suffered by a British Prime Minister in modern history. Parliament voted 432 to 202 against May's plan for taking Britain out of the EU, leaving the country”s future foggy with its legally binding departure date just 10 weeks away.

As Brexit hangs in the balance, Politicians, newspapers and commentators in Germany and Europe have been having their say on the chaotic events taking place on the island.

SEE ALSO: Brits in EU demand to be spared from Brexit 'train crash' after May's deal rejected

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that delaying Brexit beyond March 29th would make no “sense”, after a vote in London brought a crushing defeat for a withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU.

“It would only make sense (to extend the deadline) if there is a path to the goal of a deal between the EU and Great Britain,” Maas said in an interview on Deutschlandfunk public radio.

For now, “that is not the majority view in the British parliament,” he added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also this week argued that Brexit should not be pushed back, although she did not rule it out completely.

Maas added that he was doubtful any significant improvements could be made to the draft withdrawal agreement on the table – negotiated over two years since London notified Brussels it would quit the European Union.

“We have a compromise,” Maas said. “If more could have been offered, it would have been done weeks ago.”

The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician added that he hoped a no-confidence vote Wednesday fails to topple May's government.

“We need a stable government for the negotiations,” he said.

Maas also tweeted to say the ball is now in the UK's court. He added that it isn't clear what the UK wants, “only what it doesn't want”, and mentioned Germany's preparations for the event of a deal and a no-deal.

“In Germany, we have passed two major legislative packages in order to be prepared for everything. But: we hope for reason,” he added.

'Bitter day for Europe'

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday the defeat of British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal in parliament was a “bitter day for Europe”.

“This is a bitter day for Europe. We are well prepared – but a hard Brexit would be the least attractive choice, for the EU and GB (Great Britain),” said Scholz, who is also finance minister.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party and her likely successor, tweeted that she “deeply regretted” the British decision.

“A hard Brexit will be the worst of all options,” she said, urging the British people to “not rush” into anything.

Germany's Minister of State for European Affairs Michael Roth called the outcome a “disaster” but added: “The doors of Europe remain open.”

Dietmar Bartsch, of the Die Linke (the Left), tweeted that “madness has taken hold” in London.

'Brexshit'

Newspapers across Germany led with the story. Daily Bild ran with the headline: “Was für ein Brexshit!” (What a Brexshit), and in an opinion piece, it said the UK was “formerly known as the Island of Reason”.

It added: “In Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May has humiliatingly lost her most important vote – but that doesn't mean she's being chased out of office by the same large majority today. So she is stalking London like a political undead.

“It is sad to see the future of such a proud Great Britain being blown away.”

The Frankfurter Rundschau ran with a photo of British comedy character Mr Bean and a Hamlet quote: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.” The colloquial version is: “There's method in the madness.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine ran with the headline: “Und, Jetzt?!” – “Now what?!”

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung didn't hold back.

“There is no glue that can be used to reassemble the British political system, which has disintegrated into a thousand splinters,” it said.

“Theresa May has suffered a brutal defeat, her plan to implement the citizens' Brexit wish has failed. But: the Prime Minister accepts this defeat as part of the show, only to march on stoically. But where does she actually want to go?”

'No room for renegotiation'

If May wins the vote of no confidence she will likely want to go back to EU partners to see if she can amend the deal.

Reinhard Bütikofer, head of the Green Party in Europe, said he couldn't see any more room for renegotiation.

“The alternatives are hard, but inevitable: either Article 50 will be withdrawn – with or without a new referendum – or there will be a hard Brexit of the worst kind,” Bütikofer said in Brussels.

Nicola Beer, the pro business Free Democrat's lead candidate for the European elections, called for a special EU summit within 48 hours.

Beer told DPA: “The situation in Britain and the EU after Theresa May's defeat after the vote is dramatic. The EU must react immediately”.

She said that “steps the EU can take to ensure that there is an orderly Brexit and that as close a relationship as possible between the EU and Britain can then develop” should be a priority.

Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley of the centre left Social Democrats, also rejected the idea of renegotiations.

She told the Funke Group newspapers that the UK must ensure stability. “We support Great Britain on its way, but there will be no renegotiations of the agreement,” she said.

At the same time she warned that a disorderly withdrawal would have “dramatic consequences for Britain, for Germany and for Europe”. Barley herself has a British passport. “I have been British since birth and will remain so,” she added.

Member comments

  1. Mrs May caused all this bother by her complete lack of a political knowledge. She filled her cabinet with equal numbers of remainers and brexiteers to probably in order to accomodate her Womanly sense of fairness. This gradually caused a gigantic split of opinion right across the country with no respect of party or nationality. People disregarded the long-standing modus vendi in UK that when a national vote has been taken, the result is honoured until the statutary time comes to take another vote. The resul being that factions are now demanding a new vote on brexit or indeed a new government.

    Mrs May also has no feeling of getting any sort of good deal inasmuch as she threw aaway her best bagaining chips namely promising 49Bn pounds and renoucing a no-deal brexit. In just about everyting she does she puts her foot in it.
    Poor old England, events have conspired against her and I have yet to see any understanding of our position in the German press and very little sympathy from the people that I have spoken to – they are only interested in the fact that most people in UK wish to leave the EU but not bothering to find out the reasons why this is so. COLBRO

  2. Colbro is talking rubbish; most people in England DO NOT want to leave the EU, current polls show the opposite. The only way forward is a general election, but the Tory party would rather see no deal than a settled agreement that harms the fewest number, in Britain and the EU. May’s intransigence, and Corbyn’s dithering and weakness offer little hope for Britain; but at least a change of government might clear the air. As an Englishman in France I despair of the future…..

  3. May and her government are totally out of touch with the normal people of the country who will suffer the most. Unfortunately there are still a lot of people who believe Germany will intervene and beg the EU to give the UK all it wants as its car makers are so dependent on the UK ‘they need us more than we need them’. The arrogance must stop and Labour must sit up and become a proper opposition and end this madness. I live in the North East who unfortunately bought the lies peddled in 2016 and who will be hit the hardest. I am near retirement but I fear for the future of my grandchildren. What is going on now in the UK is not pretty and the racism and nationalism that has come to the fore and been allowed to grow smacks of Germany in the 1930s. Let us hope we can stop this madness now. A no deal Brexit would be more detrimental for the UK than the EU or Germany. I know the people voted leave as a reaction to the terrible years of austerity metered out by this government, but they are cutting their nose off to spite their face. I am ashamed to be British, I just wish I had taken German nationality when I lived there, at least my daughter is dual national and still has the full advantages of the EU. People forget the reason it was founded, peace in Europe and it has fulfilled that and the citizens of the UK have also profited from membership we have a much better standard of living now than in the 1970s.
    The government need to really listen as the ‘will of the people’ is not what they are offering now!

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BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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