Germany's deputy finance minister Jens Spahn said compromise over Brexit was possible
Jens Spahn, the deputy finance minister who has previously been tipped as a future German Chancellor, also indicated the cost of the UK leaving the EU may not be as high as the €60bn being mooted by some Brussels officials.
Spahn was speaking to the Sunday Times following Theresa May’s Brexit speech this week, when she unveiled her 12-point-plan that would form the basis for negotiations once Article 50 is triggered, which the Prime Minister aims to do by March 31.
Her proposals, which point towards a ‘hard’ Brexit outside of the European single market, was given a cautious welcome by European leaders on Tuesday.
But Spahn said the unprecedented nature of negotiations meant “we can devise new solutions” and admitted the possibility of Britain negotiating separate trade deals with third countries while retaining some form of access to the European customs union.
“Compromises are possible,” Spahn said.
“We can and must talk. we can fine-tune things, we can devise new solutions.”
He added that the €60bn leaving tariff being touted by some officials had been noted but would be “subject to negotiation”.
Theresa May hinted at a new deal providing Britain with access to the EU customs union post-Brexit
We can and must talk. we can fine-tune things, we can devise new solutions
The German minister’s words will be welcomed by Number 10, given that Spahn’s department is likely to have a significant role in Brexit talks.
They also echo May's own thoughts on the customs union,
In her speech at Lancaster House on January 18, May said full membership of the customs union prevented Britain from negotiating its own trade deals.
Spahn is a rising star in Angela Merkel's ruling party
She said she wanted some customs agreement with EU, but had no “preconceived position” on what that would be.
May has been under pressure to set out her position on Brexit for months, amid claims the Government was unsure where it stood on several key issues.
After her speech, the EU's chief Brext negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted that Brussels was ready to negotiate "as soon as the UK is" – meaning once Article 50 is triggered.
However Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief negotiator, said Brussels would not accept any deal that left Britain better off out of the EU than in.
That could lead to a stand-off in the future, after May said she would be willing to walk away from negotiations if the conditions weren't favourable.
"No deal for Britain is better than bad deal for Britain, she said on Tuesday.