Is Germany falling prey to the eurocrisis?

Signs emerge that the German economy is faltering

After months of Germany playing reluctant parent to Europe through its financial woes, there are emerging signs that the German economy may be taking a hit itself.

Business Insider has reported that the latest manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI), which measures major orders of goods and services by firms in manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries in the private sector, is showing a 36 month low, having fallen by 1.6 per cent this month.

This fall in Germany's PMI measure has been accompanied by an increase in the Spanish Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), the EWP against the German ETF, the EWG. These measures show that Spain's EWP has increased by 1 per cent whilst Germany's has fallen by 1 per cent.

Joe Weisenthal also points out that the Ifo Business Climate Index, a key measure of business confidence in the country, fell:

The Index fell to 105.3, below the 105.6 that was expected, and well below last month's 106.9.

Weisenthal explained this data as showing:

First of all, Germany's economy, as we've been writing about is cracking (finally) as all of its export markets are deteriorating.

More importantly, there's a growing sense that Germany is going to be on the hook, in some way or another, for the debts of its peers.

So even if the economy deteriorates, the Spanish market benefits from the fact that it may not go completely bust.

With the German economy begining to falter, he offers one final note of optimism:

An optimist might say that this is the best thing that could happen to Europe. After all, until Germany's economy weakens, it really has no incentive to see any kind of change, let alone economic stimulus, in Europe.

That said, Matt Yglesias at Slate has doubts:

The fact that a nation specializing in capital goods exports is vulnerable to shocks from abroad was eminently predictable so I'm not super-keen on the theory that German prosperity accounts for its political class' attitude toward the situation.

However the German public responds to the slow-down in its economy, these signs suggest that they may not be in a position to act as sole parent to Europe for much longer.

The German economy falters. Photograph: Getty Image

Helen Robb reads PPE at Oxford University where she is deputy editor of ISIS magazine.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.