For years, Brexit supporters have described the UK as a “treasure island” generating billions of euros in annual income for the Berlin economy.
The prophecy was that one day the German chancellor would persuade Brussels to give in to British demands and protect these sales.
Finally, more than seven years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, that prediction may finally have come true, at least in part.
Under pressure from German and British car makers, the European Commission Wednesday announced a three-year delay in Brexit tariffs on electric cars sold across the English Channel.
European manufacturers have warned that the 10% levy will hit them with excessive costs, losses of up to 4.3 billion euros (£3.7 billion) and a reduction in production of almost 500,000 electric vehicles between 2024 and 2027.< /p>
From next year, electric cars supplied between the UK and the EU are expected to source 45 per cent of their parts either from either market or be subject to a tariff agreed as part of a post-Brexit trade deal.
Germany's car industry has openly warned that if the rules are brought into force on January 1, the whole of Europe, not just the UK, will be at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to its Chinese rivals.
Kemi Badenoch has driven the last nine months, lobbying for a delay, raising the issue at every meeting with EU people, a source close to the business minister said.
Business Minister Kemi Badenoch has reportedly lobbied EU officials at every opportunity to delay the tariffs. Photo: Rashid Necati Aslim/Anadolu
“This is not just a UK problem, it's about the European car industry,” she told them, according to an insider.
But France prevented Britain from being offered relaxed trading terms, and Paris argued that any delay tariffs could set a precedent that could be used by the UK to secure further changes to the Brexit agreement.
The French believe it is better to remove the plaster now,” a European source told the Telegraph, referring to Paris’s desire to end the consequences of Brexit on both sides of the English Channel.
There is still no guarantee that France will support the proposed agreement with the UK to defer impact tariffs on electric vehicles.
A qualified majority vote of the 27 member states, in which the countries' votes have weight. depending on their size, it is necessary to sign an agreement.
With Germany accounting for 18.5% of the 65% vote, and 20 other EU capitals being part of the EU, officials believe the French opposition is irrelevant.< /p>
However, Maros Šefčović, vice -The Commission President, who brokered the deal, was keen to ensure that France would not be disappointed by a perceived defeat by Britain.
In announcing the agreement in Brussels, Mr Sefcovic, an experienced negotiator, described the decision as vital for European car makers, not their UK counterparts.
“First of all, what I would really like to say here is that this decision is very much taken from the point of view of European industrial interests,” he told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
He added. that the continent's automakers are facing “extremely difficult times” due to the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and inflation, and subsidy schemes from international rivals, a reference to Beijing's handouts to Chinese manufacturers.
Maroš Šefčović tried to explain that the delay was in the interests of the European automobile industry. Photo: RONALD WITTEK/EPA-EFE. /Shutterstock
The announcement was accompanied by an offer of €3 billion in subsidies for the European electric vehicle and battery industry.
“We want to maintain that market access, make sure we have a very strong position globally and also in our market. largest export market as China is indeed increasing its market share, and increasingly doing so through unfair practices,” an EU official said.
Diplomats said the subsidy package was designed to drum up support France to delay the introduction of tariffs on trade in electric vehicles between the UK and the EU.
The commission also proposed a clause making it legally impossible for either Brussels or the UK to renew the rules again after three years – another ploy to ease Paris' concerns about rewriting the Brexit trade deal.
But Rishi Sunak's role in The deal should also not be overlooked, insiders said.
The Prime Minister has been credited with ending the combative approaches of Boris Johnson, Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister and Liz Truss in favor of a more constructive relationship with Brussels.
He signed the Windsor Frames. replaced the Northern Ireland Protocol, the agreement that created the Irish Sea trade border, and has since overseen Britain's entry into the bloc's €95.5 billion Horizon research program.
“With the UK, of course.” We very much appreciate the improved atmosphere following the adoption of the Windsor Framework,” Mr Šefčović said in response to a question from the Telegraph.
The Commission's vice-president later broke into a smile when asked about his relationship with Lord Cameron, the foreign secretary, as he stood center stage in the press room at the organization's headquarters in Berlaymont.
The couple long-standing relationship. – a long history of working together on projects since Cameron's time as prime minister.
“I was smiling because it really wasn't my first meeting with Cameron,” Mr Šefčović said of their lunch at Brussels last week.< /p>
They spent many hours working together on plans for the EU's transition to a green economy and the conclusion of the Paris Agreement at the Cop 21 climate summit, while the UK was still a member of the bloc.< /p>
p>Following Cameron's shock appointment as foreign secretary, Mr Šefčović is now his main point of contact on the UK's relationship with Brussels.
Deals on Gibraltar are still to be finalised, fishing rights and access to the electricity market.
“We exchanged phone numbers, we correspond with each other, and I think we have a very good working relationship,” concluded Mr. Šefčović.