Berlin backs Dublin on Brexit and digital tax doubts

‘We support Ireland and the Border question without ifs or buts,’ says German official

German chancellor Angela Merkel: hopes to have “friendly, close” relations with the UK in as many areas as possible.  Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

German chancellor Angela Merkel: hopes to have “friendly, close” relations with the UK in as many areas as possible. Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

 

Ahead of Thursday’s European Council meeting, Germany has copper-fastened its support for Ireland in the Brexit process and signalled it shares Dublin doubts on an EU digital tax proposal.

A day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar left Berlin, heartened by German support on both fronts, senior officials close to Angela Merkel said their positions were unwavering.

“We support Ireland and the Border question without ifs or buts,” said a senior Berlin official on Wednesday. “It isn’t an Irish question for us but a question for the EU27, it is the outer border of the EU in future and there is nothing to add to the chancellor’s remarks.”

At a joint press conference on Tuesday, Dr Merkel described the Border question as a “very sensitive issue of central importance” in which “Germany supports the Irish position completely”.

In her first Bundestag address on Wednesday since starting her fourth term, she expressed the hope of “friendly, close” relations with the UK in as many areas as possible.

Single market

“But of course the relationship of the UK to the EU – given its wish to leave the single market and customs union – cannot be as close as today,” she said.

Ahead of the EU leaders’ meeting in Brussels, German officials were notably cool about French euro reform proposals – on ice for six months while Germany scrabbled to find a new government.

French president Emmanuel Macron had hoped to present joint Franco-German proposals at this week’s summit – but Dr Merkel has asked for more time and the new plan is for June.

After presenting a coalition agreement heavy on ambiguity on euro reform, a senior Merkel adviser said on Wednesday the French leader was in “no doubt” as to Berlin’s positions.

“But rather than give a public speech . . . we think it is better to talk first with a partner and then possibly reach a common position,” said the Berlin official.

The French reform proposals – including a euro finance minister – have drawn a critical response from eight northern European finance ministers, including Paschal Donohoe.