German minister urges UK to be more ‘realistic’ in Brexit talks

Britain needs to be more "realistic and pragmatic" in Brexit negotiations with the EU, Germany's European affairs minister says.

German minister urges UK to be more 'realistic' in Brexit talks
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: DPA

Expressing deep disappointment over deadlocked negotiations on Britain's future relationship with the bloc, Michael Roth also voiced astonishment that London also “does not appear to have any increased interest in discussing foreign and security issues” with the EU.

Roth said he was “disappointed that London is shifting further and further away from the political declaration agreed between us as a reliable basis for negotiations.

“I would like those responsible in London to be more realistic and pragmatic,” he said, adding that “the Brits” are especially known for their pragmatism.

Britain followed through on the results of a deeply divisive 2016 referendum and left the EU after almost half a century of integration on January 31st.

It remains bound by the bloc's rules until December 31st pending the outcome of negotiations about its future relationship with its largest trading partner.

But with the pandemic wreaking havoc on the timetable, fears are growing that time is running out fast to secure an agreement that could prevent a messy exit.

London has ruled out extending the transition beyond December 31st even though chief negotiators have warned that an agreement lies out of reach because of a fundamental gap in major areas such as fishing rights and fair
competition rules.

As Germany took over the presidency of the EU on July 1st, Chancellor Angela Merkel pointedly said the bloc must prepare for the possibility that talks could fail.

READ ALSO: What does Brexit mean for my rights as a Brit living in Germany?

'We need two to tango'

Even on the issue of security policies – where both sides had pledged to maintain close cooperation, London is blowing cold at a time when allies were more necessary than ever, Roth said.

Germany's European affairs minister Michael Roth. Photo: DPA

“In the geopolitically uncomfortable post-corona world, good and trustworthy partners are all the more important,” he said.

“Close cooperation in this area is in both sides' interests. But it is clear that we need two to tango… At the moment, we're dancing while standing still.”

To the EU's dismay, London had signalled that an “institutionalised relationship” regarding security was not necessary after Brexit given Britain's engagement in the trans-atlantic alliance NATO.

Germany has listed Brexit negotiations as one of its main priorities during its presidency of the EU.

How to revive the bloc's economy after the huge devastation from the coronavirus pandemic is also a key concern.

Roth noted that more than ever, Germany is counting on backing from France, with the French-German powerhouse recently reinvigorated with a joint initiative by Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to kickstart the
EU's economy.

READ ALSO: 'No big bang but things will change down the line': How Brexit will affect Brits in Germany

The initiative had been the basis of the huge €750 billion ($884 billion) recovery plan approved by the bloc in July and marked a huge U-turn on the part of Merkel as it is underwritten by joint borrowing – until now a taboo in Europe's top economy.

“The Franco-German engine was always running, even if admittedly it sometimes stuttered a little.

“But for Europe to emerge from the crisis stronger… it is now important that we keep the well-oiled engine running at full speed and take the other Europeans with us on an equal footing.”

By Isabelle Le Page

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‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

Ranked: Italy’s best universities and how they compare worldwide

“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: Eight things you should know if you’re planning to study in Italy

Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.