Second Brexit referendum 'more likely' every day: Germany's Justice Minister

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Second Brexit referendum 'more likely' every day: Germany's Justice Minister
Katarina Barley, Germany's Justice Minister, in front of an EU poster in Oberkrämer, Brandenburg, on Friday. Photo: DPA

The chances of a second referendum on Brexit are increasing every day, according to Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley, who holds both British and German nationality.


For language learners: we've highlighted some useful vocabulary in this news story. You'll find the German translations at the bottom of the article.

Centre-left Social Democrat (SPD) Barley spoke out during an interview with German broadcaster SWR on Tuesday, as MPs in the UK prepared to debate and vote on the next steps of Brexit. 

It comes after MPs overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan in a dramatic House of Commons vote on January 15th.

SEE ALSO: 'They voted against my way of living': Brits in Germany on life with Brexit

A delay in the March 29th exit date could be discussed, “But if you don’t have a plan for making it different, then a postponement makes only limited sense,” said Barley in the interview.

She added that a second referendum seemed quite possible. “I think this is getting more likely with every day,” she said.

Barley, who was born to a British father and German mother in Cologne and speaks fluent German, English and French, is the SPD's leading European candidate. She told Funke media group newspapers on Tuesday that the British government had “manoeuvred itself into a dead end”.

But a no-deal or disorderly Brexit can still be prevented, she said. "A way out of this muddled situation could be to let the British vote on the negotiated agreement themselves,” she said.

The Justice Minister, who has called previously for a second Brexit referendum, reiterated the position of the German government that there would be no changes to the content of the negotiated agreement. "Above all, we want to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland so as not to jeopardize peace in the region,” Barley added.

The debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday is about how the government has responded to the rejection of its deal. MPs have tabled various amendments setting out what they think should happen. There are various possibilities of what could happen next, including a second vote by MPs, renegotiation, a referendum, a general election or a no-deal.

SEE ALSO: 'I am not alone': How Brexit's Facebook groups can be lifesaving therapy for anxious Britons

Brexit could hit data flow

Meanwhile, leading German business figures warned that a no-deal could cause havoc to the flow of data across borders. "If a hard Brexit comes, data traffic with a country like Uruguay will be easier than with the United Kingdom from March 30th",  the president of the IT association Bitkom, Achim Berg, told Handelsblatt on Tuesday.

German companies would have to pay their British business partners or service providers this way as if they were based outside the EU, anything else would be a violation of the basic data protection regulation DSGVO, "with the known high risks of fines", said Berg.

EU Commissioner Günter Verheugen said he thought there was now no chance of averting a chaotic Brexit. "The disaster is taking its course,"  the SPD politician told the Augsburger Allgemeine.

In the long run, the political damage caused by Brexit will be greater than the economic damage, Verheugen said.

"The loss of such a large and important country as Britain will massively reduce the international weight of the EU," he said. He also said nationalists across Europe will also see Brexit as encouragement. "They want to destroy the EU," Verheugen said.

German vocabulary

vorbereiten - to prepare

die Abstimmung -  vote 

die Verzögerung - delay

ein zweites Brexit-Referendum - a second Brexit referendum 

sich in eine Sackgasse manövriert - manoeuvred itself into a dead end

verfahrenen Situation - muddled situation 

der Inhalt - content

gefährden - to jeopardize

der harte Brexit - hard Brexit

das Unheil - disaster

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating relevant vocabulary from our news stories of the day. Did you find articles like these useful? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know.


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