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German chancellor Olaf Scholz slammed the far-right Alternative for Germany’s plans for “Dexit”, saying any move to leave the EU would be catastrophic for the bloc’s largest economy.
“That would be the biggest destroyer of wealth that could ever happen to Europe and Germany,” he told the Bundestag. “Our country has profited more than any other from the EU and [European] co-operation.”
In a combative speech in the German parliament on Wednesday, Scholz said Britain’s exit from the EU four years ago had “plunged the UK into economic disaster”.
Weidel said an AfD government would seek to reform the EU and remove its “democratic deficit”. If that didn’t work, she said, then “we should let the people decide, just as Britain did”. “And we could have a referendum on ‘Dexit’ — a German exit from the EU.”
Scholz’s view is widely shared by German business leaders. “When I speak to my colleagues in the UK, they say they were never in favour of Brexit and are still against it,” said Siegfried Russwurm, head of the BDI, Germany’s main business lobby.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Russwurm said Germany had “been one of the biggest beneficiaries” of the European single market and the single currency.
He warned against the AfD’s Dexit plans. “As an exporting nation, Germany profits from its openness to the world more than almost any other country,” he said. “We must have open borders.”
Scholz told MPs that Germany’s history meant it had an obligation to become a bulwark against far-right forces such as the AfD.
“With rightwing populism gaining so much support in the US, with Brexit plunging the UK into economic disaster, with so many governments in Europe being backed by rightwing populists — and sometimes they’re even in the government — then we in Germany have a role, arising from our history, to stop this trend, and to do it together,” he said.
Scholz was speaking amid mounting concern among mainstream parties about the strengthening of the AfD, which is currently polling at about 20 per cent — ahead of all three parties in Scholz’s coalition.
The party has profited from rising dissatisfaction with the government, an alliance of Social Democrats, Greens and liberals. That found its most visible expression in recent protests by farmers over a cut to agricultural subsidies, which saw hundreds of tractors converging on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
But some recent polls suggest the AfD may be suffering a backlash after reports earlier this month that some of the party’s functionaries had met far-right radicals to discuss plans for the mass deportation of people with immigrant roots — including those with German citizenship.
The reports triggered mass demonstrations across Germany against the rise of the AfD and the extreme right. The party finished second in a district election that it was expected to win in the eastern state of Thuringia at the weekend.