Photographer: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Merkel Says U.K. Will Pay Price If EU Immigration Is Curbed

Updated on
  • From house pets to Northern Ireland, it’s ‘very complicated’
  • German chancellor expands on her unyielding Brexit stance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the U.K. will pay a price if it curbs immigration from the European Union after Brexit, highlighting her uncompromising stance on the fundamentals of future relations.

“This isn’t meant maliciously, but you can’t have all of the good things and then say there’s a limit of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens” allowed to enter the U.K., Merkel said on a panel in Berlin on Wednesday. “That won’t work. At that point, we’ll have to think about which restrictions we do on the European side to compensate for that.”

It was one of Merkel’s most direct warnings yet to U.K. policy makers ahead of Brexit talks between the EU and the U.K. The German chancellor, who presides over Europe’s biggest economy and is running for a fourth term of office in September, has insisted that while Germany wants to maintain close ties, the EU won’t make special allowances for the U.K.

Beyond defending the interests of Germans living in the U.K., Merkel said “we’ll always keep in mind the 48 or 49 percent who didn’t vote for Brexit.” She was responding to a question by a U.K. delegate at a G-20 labor-union conference in Berlin who said many members voted to remain in the EU.

EU leaders have said repeatedly that the talks will be complex. That includes the future of the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which Merkel said shows “how quickly you get to questions of war and peace.”

Then there are also “the 250,000 house pets -- cats and dogs -- that move each year from Britain to continental Europe or vice versa.”

“Now we’ll need vaccination records, hygiene certificates -- the kinds of things that we can’t even remember anymore,” Merkel told the group. “It’ll be very, very complicated.”

Germany’s Social Democratic Party broadly backed Merkel’s stance on Brexit in a draft campaign platform published Wednesday, saying the U.K. shouldn’t be offered an “a la carte Europe” in negotiations with the EU.

Dealing with Brexit in a single paragraph on page 58 of the 65-page plan, the SPD says that while close security ties with the U.K. are important, “the most important German interest for us is to defend European unification.”

— With assistance by Birgit Jennen

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