Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schauble has warned that the EU will demand a tough approach with the UK on issues from tax breaks to exit costs, removing any of Downing Street’s hope that Germany could help to soften the EU’s stance. The UK may be forced to honour previous financial commitments up to 2030 if the Prime Minister, Theresa May, wants Brexit talks to be conducted smoothly in the weeks and months ahead. Many finance ministers across Europe have echoed this sentiment, stating that the UK cannot simply walk away from the EU and face no consequences or penalties as a result. Berlin had previously been one of the most UK friendly EU governments after the vote to leave the EU, with chancellor Angela Merkel keen to signal to Europe that a ‘hard Brexit bargain’ should not be sought as it would risk damaging UK-EU ties going forward. Meanwhile, French president Francois Hollande has warned that an easy Brexit could encourage other European countries to take the same path and thus give rise to anti-EU sentiment cross the continent – this intense lobbying has seem to have won over for the time being and Germany has hardened its line to the UK. Speaking on the issue of free movement, Mr Schauble commented that ‘the UK would not receive special treatment on migration if it wanted to remain in the EU’s common market’, describing the free movement of people as a key concept of the internal market that cannot simply be pushed to one side.
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