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Two of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s potential coalition partners after next month’s election have broken ranks with the U.K. government and given their backing to an independent Scotland inside the European Union.
The Free Democratic Party, or FDP, and the Greens cite the U.K.’s decision to pursue Brexit for their positions, which were outlined in their respective party platforms for the federal election on Sept. 24. Both parties could form a government with Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc or with her main challenger, the Social Democratic Party led by Martin Schulz depending on the outcome of the vote and subsequent negotiations.
The FDP, who partnered Merkel in her second term, call for talks between the EU and U.K. under way in Brussels “to consider the interests of Scotland and Northern Ireland fairly” after the two regions voted against Brexit. “Should they decide to leave the U.K., the door to the EU should remain open — as it should to the U.K.”
The Greens, which run the state that’s home to Mercedes and Porsche cars in a coalition with Merkel’s party, also refer to Scotland and Northern Ireland. “We welcome openly and with understanding the wishes of the Scots and Northern Irish, as well as the many people in the U.K. who want to remain in the EU,” the Greens say in their manifesto. “We make clear that our door remains open.”
The German backing for Scotland to remain in the EU is at once a rebuke to Prime Minister Theresa May and a rare sign of international encouragement for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s attempts to avoid Brexit.
While May’s Conservative administration has pledged to consult the semi-autonomous Scottish government in Edinburgh on its Brexit plans, the pro-independence Scottish National Party has repeatedly warned that Britain is headed for economic disaster by leaving the EU at any cost.
The SNP lost support in the U.K. election in June, but Sturgeon is adamant that Scotland shouldn’t be taken out of the European single market against its will and its people should then have a choice whether to stick with the rest of the U.K. or go it alone after a Brexit deal emerges. At the moment, support for Scottish independence stands at 40-45 percent.
Merkel has been relatively quiet on Brexit during the German election campaign, mentioning it only to stress that the U.K. must meet its financial obligations and to say that her party is committed to protecting the German fishing industry once the U.K. leaves. Her party platform makes no mention of Scotland.
Polls suggest Merkel is on course to win a fourth term, but will need a coalition partner to govern. If current polling is replicated on election day, she will have a choice of either repeating her current hookup with the Social Democrats or a three-way coalition with the Free Democrats and the Greens.
— With assistance by Patrick Donahue