Shortly after the British referendum, the UK’s intention to leave the EU was increasingly criticised as a quasi self-destructive nonsensical enterprise or people were convinced that there would be another vote and the result would be corrected. Stock exchanges have largely disregarded this: despite significant losses after the referendum, the British FTSE index fell much less than the German DAX. The already overvalued pound dropped considerably, which has opened up new opportunities for the British economy. Meanwhile, the effect of Brexit on the stock market has given way to other factors.
Given Germany’s massive economic interests in the British market, the exit procedure, brought into play by some as punishment for Britain’s move, is likely to have a different impact than could be imagined in France, Spain or even Greece. In 2014, German exports to the UK were around 98 billion euros. Conversely, the British exported 38 billion euros to Germany. Rarely mentioned is the fact that, after Germany, the UK is the second most important net contributor to the EU. France is ranked third but given its desperate economic situation it is hardly likely to voluntarily take on any significant additional burdens; furthermore, the EU itself is very unpopular in France at the moment.
A political fall-out from Brexit will also place a burden on Germany in the future. For decades, the British have put the brakes on transferring more national influence to Brussels or on efforts to “communitise”. In the future, Germany will be able to choose between doing this itself more emphatically or living with the risk of further communitisation driven by Brussels. This could quickly lead to problems, for example, when it comes to keeping access to special approaches that are financially relevant to Germany – social protection – away from Brussels in the interest of subsidiarity.