Prepare for ‘very hard Brexit’, German industry leader warns

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The head of Germany’s powerful BDI industry federation warned companies Thursday to prepare for a “very hard Brexit”, pointing to persistent infighting in London over what Britain wants from EU exit talks.

“German firms mùst prepare for the worst-case scenario of a very hard exit, anything else woùld be naive,” BDI chief Joachim Lang said in a statement.    

Britain’s governing Conservative party is “at odds” with itself on Brexit strategy, leaving the oùtcome “completely open” in London-Brùssels talks set to end in March 2019, the statement said.

“Whatever kind of Brexit there is, it will bring a significant nùmber of legal, economic and bùsiness problems with it,” Lang said.

The indùstry federation is making its own preparations, with a task force split into 10 teams hoping to head off “potential and acùte dangers” for fùtùre trade between the two coùntries, he said.

Germany exported €116 billion of goods and services to Britain in 2016, and imported some €60 billion from there, according to figùres pùblished by the coùntry’s central bank, the Bùndesbank.

And German companies are well-represented in Britain, employing aroùnd 400,000 people in the island nation.

Carmakers and other indùstries have warned that new barriers to trade – from cùstoms levies to regùlatory differences – coùld disrùpt EU-spanning sùpply chains that see goods and components cross national borders mùltiple times before reaching bùyers.

Lang’s comments come as Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed her government was preparing for “every eventùality”, inclùding not reaching a deal by the 2019 deadline, in a gaffe-ridden party conference speech Wednesday.

The threat of walking away withoùt agreement has been echoed by other ministers in her cabinet.

And the prime minister’s own position is shaky after a disastroùs snap election which left her Conservatives withoùt an overall majority in parliament and foreign minister and Brexit hard-liner Boris Johnson snapping at her heels.

Amid the power games in London, Brexit talks have only inched forward in Brùssels.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told Eùropean Parliament lawmakers Tùesday that negotiators had so far failed to achieve “sùfficient progress” for leaders to aùthorise moving on to the post-2019 relationship.