Britain: Nigel Farage delivers a well-received Brexit speech at AfD Berlin rally

The former UKIP leader was met with rancorous applause at an Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) rally in Berlin, arguing that, ‘Brexit may embarrass Merkel and Schulz, but they need to start talking about it to protect the jobs of their own workers.’

By Max Caskie

Nigel Farage, Member of the European Parliament

Farage also pointed out that there was a “lack of debate in the German campaign about the UK’s split from Brussels”, something which was evident in the duel between Merkel and Schulz earlier this week. The MEP claims it is because Brexit is a ‘huge embarrassment’ for EU leaders – though the Centre for European Reform argues that this is not the case.  

He said to reporters, “(I’m trying) to get a proper debate going in the biggest, richest and most important, powerful country in Europe about not just the shape of Brexit but perhaps even the shape of the European project to come.”

The AfD was founded in 2013 by a group of German economists in response to the Eurozone crisis. The party’s objectives include having a Brexit style referendum on both the Eurozone and the European Union. Currently, it is polled at around 11 percent support, which would make it “the largest opposition party if Merkel wins, as expected, and renews her ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD.” The party is known for its controversial views, having stated in the past that “German border guards should open fire on illegal immigrants “if necessary“.”

AfD members were enthusiastic about Farage’s call for Germans to “say to Brussels: look, the reason the Brits left is because you’re behaving so badly, you’re taking away so much of people’s freedom, liberty and democracy”.

Reuters reported that Beatrix von Storch, deputy chairwoman of the AfD, takes ‘hope from Farage’, and was quoted as saying, “Nigel Farage showed the impossible is possible if you just believe in it and fight this fight – he did that for more than two decades and that makes him a role model for us.”

Farage also pushed for Germany to negotiate a deal with Britain without Brussels: “Merkel needs to know that unless she tells Brussels to come to a common-sense accommodation, then she will be putting the interests of Brussels above the interests of common people.” He also stated that, “Trade is a two-way street. If it [Brussels] denies a good deal to the UK, it is denying a deal to the German workers.”

Yet Politico argues it is a misguided belief that Berlin will come to the aid of Britain in the form of a ‘soft Brexit’, because Germany will always favour the single market over any tariff-free access deal.

You can watch Nigel Farage’s speech in full here:

 

Opinion: the Merkel/Schulz ‘duel’ was dull, but that’s a good thing.

It was labelled by the German press as ‘das Duell’. Yet Merkel and Schulz agreed on all the major issues, and the former emerged as the clear victor. But in the current political climate, Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky argues the uninspired debate was a ‘gift from heaven’.

By Max Caskie

Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz pictured with Jean-Claude Juncker. 

Christian Lindner, the FDP party leader, quipped that the debate was like, ‘a long marriage, where there is the occasional quarrel, but both sides know that they have to stick together in the future, too.’ The disagreements were centred around Trump, Turkey’s EU accession and the migrant crisis.

Despite these potential flashpoints, Schulz failed to seize the initiative and delineate himself from his opponent. That the pair agreed on most of the major issues led to it being called ‘more a duet than a duel’.

Yet Bershidsky posits that this consensus is good news: there is enough polarisation taking place elsewhere. For example, the Netherlands has yet to form a government ‘based on the outcome of the general election held in March…the coalition talks are the longest in 40 years’.

The same deep divisions can be seen with Brexit which ‘shows no signs of subsiding’, and in the US, where people are still unclear as to what ‘Trump’s victory and his presidency are about’. Even Macron, the supposed new face of politics, has become aware of the number of people who used their vote tactically to keep Le Pen out.

In contrast, despite the German incumbent coalition’s ‘fatigue after ruling jointly for the last four years’, there doesn’t seem to be a strong alternative coalition structure.

So, is the Economist right to label the duel as a failure and a lack of a ‘clash of ideas’? Bershidsky says not, and the evidence is in the lack of support for more radical parties: Die Linke and Alternative for Germany (AfD) only have 15-20 percent combined support.

This is less than Schulz’s Social Democrats (SPD) hold 23 percent and a lot less than Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) with 40 percent. Given these figures, it appears most Germans are happy with the status quo.

The desire for ‘more of the same’ was obvious when discussing foreign policy, a stage on which Germany has tried hard to play a minor role on in recent times. Neither Schulz or Merkel were ‘interested in Ukraine or North Korea, and Russia only came up once…’ Any ground that Schulz tried to gain over Turkey, where 12 Germans are currently imprisoned as political prisoners, dealt no decisive blows to Merkel. The duel showed that both the SPD and the CDU are, for the most part, focused on a ‘rather tame domestic agenda’.

Overall, Bershidsky says that ‘the German press ought to hold the criticism.’ Many other countries in the West are faced with ideological crises and deep political cleavages. Merkel and Schulz’s difficulties lie only in how to provide more of the same stability that their coalition has become synonymous with.