German government latest: talks about talks are over. Now it’s time for the talks.
SPD delegates have voted to approve the initial blueprint for coalition negotiations with Anglea Merkel’s CDU/CSU, which can now begin in earnest.
But the path to another grand coalition of centre-right and centre-left or “GroKo” as it has become known is not yet entirely clear. The relatively narrow 362-279 vote among delegates shows that achieving the backing of the 440,000 ordinary members of the SPD is not going to be easy. One repeated refrain on the pro-coalition side yesterday was that while the blueprint might be low on concrete concessions from the CDU-CSU, the final document would be more left-friendly. If it’s not, then Germany could yet be heading for another election.
The SPD’s problem is that if the polls are to be believed, it’s them rather than Merkel who have something to fear from an election re-run, which may reduce the chances of further concessions.
What does it mean for the Brexit talks? Well, not a great deal. Preserving the single market and the handling of the United Kingdom’s exit are one of the issues that unites the whole German political class (and it isn’t exactly a vote-mover among supporters of the anti-system parties either). The bigger change is if the grand coalition does go ahead, the biggest barrier to at least a measure of the Eurozone reform that Emmanuel Macron craves has been removed. It’s unlikely, to put it mildly, that “we reformed the structures of the EU” is the rallying cry the SPD are going to need at the next election – but it could well be the most important consequence of this next phase of their coalition with Merkel.