German business leaders have warned Theresa May it will be “extraordinarily difficult” to protect UK industry in Brexit negotiations.
The leaders of two of the country’s main business organisations have cast doubt on claims Germany’s manufacturers will help to secure a good trade deal after Britain leaves the European Union.
Ministers have often claimed that German carmakers, along with other key European industries such as French farmers and winemakers, would put pressure on their governments to agree a comprehensive deal which keeps tariff-free trade between the UK and the remaining 27 member states.
But the leaders of two of Germany’s main business organisations said the priority for them was maintaining the integrity of the single market.
Video: Trump talks-up a UK trade deal at G20
Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI, the federation of German industries, told The Observer: “Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority for the European Union.
“Europe must maintain the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods, capital, services, and labour.
“It is the responsibility of the British Government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel.
“Over the coming months, it will be extraordinarily difficult to avert negative effects on British businesses in particular.”
Video: May feeling pressure from business leaders
Ingo Kramer, president of the confederation of German employers’ associations (BDA), told the newspaper: “The single market is one of the major assets of the EU. Access to the single market requires the acceptance of all four single market freedoms.
“The UK will remain a very important partner for us, but we need a fair deal for both sides respecting this principle.
“The cohesion of the remaining 27 EU member states has highest priority.”
The intervention comes in the wake of the G20 summit, at which Mrs May received a boost from US President Donald Trump.
Video: Prime Minister wants a ‘global Britain’
Mr Trump highlighted the prospect of a trade deal with the UK, saying he expects to reach a “very powerful” agreement “very quickly”.
The PM said it was a “powerful vote of confidence” in Britain that Mr Trump and other leaders have shown a “strong desire” to strike new trade deals after Brexit.
Justice Secretary David Lidington acknowledged a US trade deal “wouldn’t be enough on its own”, but told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show “it would be a very good thing to have, as would trade deals with the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America”.
Meanwhile, three former Conservative ministers have hit out at Mrs May’s approach to Brexit.
Video: Businesses want to avoid ‘cliff edge’ Brexit
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve and ex-education secretary Nicky Morgan criticised the red line the PM has put on allowing any role for the European Court of Justice after Britain cuts ties with Brussels.
Mr Grieve told The Sunday Telegraph that the Government should have an open mind, saying: “We have to be realistic. Some of the attitudes to the ECJ seem to be a bit knee jerk. It has a pariah status.
“I’ve never been particularly impressed with it, but the fact is it is there and it’s going to be doing a lot of work that is relevant to us.”
Ms Morgan said: “There may be some merit in just thinking about the detail of our future relationship with the ECJ before we draw a line through the relationship entirely.”
Former culture minister Ed Vaizey and senior Labour MP Rachel Reeves used a joint article in The Sunday Telegraph to criticise the decision to pull out of Euratom, the European civil nuclear regulator.