“Merkel Out”. What Does it Mean for Brexit Negotiations?

External Relations
Since everything collapsed in June 2016 when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, slow negotiations are still ongoing. After that day everything turned into a culture-clash between pro-EU and euro-skepticals. Brexiters lend populists around Europe a hand in their campaign against the EU.
Since then, the EU started looking weaker and weaker – at least in its domestic affairs – facing at the same time several centripetal forces potentially downgrading the integration results the EU fulfilled so far. In the last few weeks, the EU diplomatic framework radically changed. The news coming from Germany – where Merkel’s party CDU-CSU missed the chance to confirm its already weak leadership, leading the current Chancellor to notify that she will not run for another mandate – could open a window to a “New Deal” served in a European sauce.
In particular, after Ms Merkel announced she will not run for another mandate as Chancellor, the UK Government is expecting to play its own Brexit game in a freer way. Angela Merkel, together with President Macron from France and representatives from the EU institutions often showed a fierce resistance against the UK demands for special treatment dealing with Brexit.
Anyway, everything still seems a bit far-fetched. Since the time Mr Cameron was the UK Prime Minister, the Government’s perception and expectations towards Germany often happened to fall short. Instead of acknowledging that Germany’s commitment to the EU’s four freedoms is its “national interest”, Tory expectations that Merkel would come to the rescue with a workaround only intensified.
Let us get back to when Theresa May triggered Article 50 in 2017. At that time, both UK Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson went to Berlin to join an off-the-record gathering between German and British business and political leaders. For months, Berlin had resisted London’s continuous attempts to reach a behind-the-scenes deal by insisting that there could be no negotiations until Article 50 was triggered.
Therefore, Hammond and Johnson landed in Germany pretty sure that the crucial moment had finally arrived. Once again, they left disappointed. Merkel’s chief of staff told them that the European Commission would lead the negotiations, and not Berlin. As POLITICO noted at the time, “Berlin’s Brexit Realpolitik is poorly understood in the UK”.
An all this never really changed.With Merkel now putting one foot out the door, the UK’s focus will naturally shift to her potential successors, again with expectations and hope to find a real solution to the long-lasting Brexit situation.

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