Merkel said to kickstart German coalition talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting members of three smaller political parties to sound out their red lines. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)
Updated 29 October 2017

Merkel said to kickstart German coalition talks

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to meet with possible coalition partners on Sunday to kickstart the process of forming a government after talks got off to a rocky start last week, media reported.
Merkel, whose conservative alliance came first but lost seats in the Sept. 24 national election, is trying to forge a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmental Greens that is untested at a national level.
The process is proving tricky, with disputes about climate and immigration policy played out in German media over the weekend after what one negotiator described as a “big clash” between participants on Thursday.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper said Merkel would try to “rescue” the talks by meeting with Horst Seehofer, who heads the conservative Bavarian CSU party, two officials from the Greens and FDP leader Christian Lindner at an undisclosed location.
The political mood remained stormy.
Bild am Sonntag said Lindner, for instance, had argued that he should be allowed to bring a second FDP official to the high-level meeting since the Greens were also bringing both Cem Ozdemir and Katrin Goering-Eckardt.
The exploratory talks are due to continue Monday after the three sides failed to reach agreement on immigration and climate issues during an 11-hour session on Thursday.
The possible partners in a so-called Jamaica coalition — a name chosen because the parties’ black, yellow and green colors mirror those of the Jamaican flag — are at odds over ending coal production to lower carbon dioxide emissions and migrant caps.
Many conservatives want to take a harder line on immigration, blaming their election setback on Merkel’s decision to allow in more than a million migrants in 2015 and 2016. They want to limit refugee numbers, but the Greens reject such a cap.
Other issues such as pensions and labor regulations — which could be on the agenda on Monday — appear less contentious.
The three blocs are also moving toward agreement on the issue of legalizing marijuana through licensed distributors, such as pharmacies, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.
Fritz Becker, head of the German pharmacists association, said his group was ready to take on the job, and had let the parties know its position.
Better to legalize marijuana with “consultation about risks and side effects, good customer service and clean merchandise,” he told the newspaper.
Alexander Lambsdorff, deputy leader of the FDP parliamentary group, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that exploratory talks on forming a coalition were in “a difficult phase” but said that was not unexpected at such an early stage in the negotiations.
“Of course there will still be different interpretations and the occasional rumble,” he said.
He said the FDP and Greens had “no choice but to talk to each other” given the current circumstances in the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament.
“In the end, everyone will have to see if they can support the result. No one will be served if a coalition emerges that is at odds for four years,” he told the newspaper.
The Social Democrats, junior partner to the conservatives over the last four years, have vowed to stay in opposition.

UK PM Theresa May to ask lawmakers to vote on a second Brexit referendum

Updated 17 min 10 sec ago

UK PM Theresa May to ask lawmakers to vote on a second Brexit referendum

  • May is offering concessions in what she says is a “last chance” to secure British departure
  • May said she was 'making a new offer to find common ground in Parliament'

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government will include in her Withdrawal Agreement Bill a requirement for lawmakers to vote on whether to hold another Brexit referendum.

“I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue,” May said. "The government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum."

“So to those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal - you need a deal and therefore Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it happen,” May said.

May is offering concessions in what she says is a “last chance” to secure an orderly British departure from the bloc.

The deal that she struck with the EU has been rejected by UK lawmakers three times already.

Since then, she has tried to secure backing from lawmakers with promises to maintain high standards on workers' rights and environmental protections — issues that are priorities for the left-of-center opposition Labour Party.

She also said UK lawmakers would get to decide how close a trade relationship to seek with the EU after Brexit, in a concession to Labour's demands for a customs union.

May said she was “making a new offer to find common ground in Parliament.”

“I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too,” she said.

May has said that after Parliament votes on the bill she will set out a timetable for her departure as Conservative leader and prime minister. Pro-Brexit Conservatives blame May for the country's political deadlock and want to replace her with a staunch Brexit supporter such as Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary.

(With agencies)