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Event Summaries
November 1, 2017

Event Summary: After the German (non-)Election: How might Berlin shape Brexit and the EU?

Henry Jackson Society

By Jack Wright

On 1 November 2017, the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) welcomed Hans Kundnani—the Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and a renowned “Kanzleramtologist”—who spoke about the direction German foreign policy is likely to take in the short- to medium-term, for an event chaired by James Rogers, Director of the Global Britain programme with HJS.

Kundnani argued the recent German election was a “non-election,” since it was clear (in the days prior to the vote) that incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel would secure another term in office. Although there had been a “tantalizing possibility” that Martin Schulz could steal votes away from Merkel, Kundnani maintained that the German people (by and large) wanted “more of the same,” vis-à-vis European integration and the Eurozone; as the Social Democrats finished in second place, the success of Merkel more broadly translated into the bursting of the “Schulz bubble.” Furthermore, the prominent electoral gains made by Alternative für Deutschland signalled a willingness to enforce a tougher approach toward the Eurozone (rather than the hysterical warnings made of a reactionary lurch toward a recrudescent German fascism.

Kundnani illustrated there remained three key elements which encompassed mainstream (i.e., centre-ground) German consensus in the early 21st century:

  • First, a broad commitment to European integration;
  • Second, a growing recognition within Berlin that Germany and the EU must disincentivize other member states from following the British example; although a strict punishment would be undesirable in the medium- to long-term, London must face (or be seen to face) costs for withdrawal;
  • Third, a desire to maintain absolute freedom of movement, fundamental to the greater cause of European integration; however, Kundnani suspects the German elites couch “hard interests” within ideological norms to consolidate the extreme benefits of migration to the German economy, and thus pursue narrow objectives “in the name of ‘Europe.’”