‘Brexit to blame!’ Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz on ‘problems’ with UK exit

Olaf Scholz says 'The free movement of labour is part of the EU'

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Mr Scholz has formally entered a three-party coalition that ends Angela Merkel’s 16 years at the helm of German politics. He had spent almost two months on negotiations with the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) in order to strike an agreement. It is believed that the broad plans of the coalition will place heavy emphasis on the climate — protecting the environment and attempting to curb human-induced global warming.

Business is also on the menu, with the pro-business FDP hoping to boost Germany’s financial sector.

While Mr Scholz is almost certain to become the Chancellor, he will only officially take over the role after a vote in the Bundestag expected to take place between December 6 and 9.

The SPD man will then become one of the most powerful politicians in Europe, taking on the pivotal role that Mrs Merkel has built for the country within the EU.

Earlier this year, Mr Scholz appeared to take aim at the UK, after blaming Brexit for its haulier shortage.

He said that ending free movement of labour with the EU had created “problems” for the UK when speaking to reporters in September following Germany’s inconclusive elections.

When asked whether he would be prepared to send German truck drivers to the UK to help with the petrol crisis, he said: “The free movement of labour is part of the European Union.

“We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union.

“They decided differently and I hope they will manage the problems coming from that.

“I think it’s constantly an important idea for all of us to make it happen that there will be good relations between the EU and the UK.

“But this is a problem to be solved.”

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His comments came as British motorists up and down the country flocked to petrol stations and panic-bought petrol after fears a shortage of tanker drivers could hit supply chains.

Many petrol stations at the time assured motorists that they had enough petrol, but the panic-buying itself led to a brief nationwide shortage.

In a bid to curb the fallout, Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to issue thousands of three-month visas for foreign drivers to work in the UK.

This was despite ministers having previously said they wanted firms to train and employ more British staff.

Mr Scholz suggested the UK needed to look at levels of pay and conditions of employment in the haulage industry if it were to attract more workers.

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He said: “It might have something to do with the question of wages.

“If you understand that being a trucker is really something which many people like to be and you don’t find enough, this has something to do with working conditions and this is something that has to be thought about.”

Meanwhile, Mr Scholz’s coming to power and the decisions he will make will have crucial consequences for Germany’s neighbours given its status as Europe’s biggest economy.

In a press conference on Wednesday announcing the coalition, he spoke of daring to make greater progress in an alliance “on equal terms”.

He also said “sovereignty of Europe is a cornerstone of our foreign policy”, and highlighted Germany’s friendship with France and partnership with the US.

Mr Scholz also pointed out that the three parties’ wider memberships still had to approve what has been labelled a “traffic-light” coalition.

Among the plans announced in the press conference, an aim to phase out coal use by 2030, using two percent of German territory for wind power, and sourcing 80 percent of electricity from renewable energy and 15 million electric cars to be on German roads by 2030.

There are also plans to legalise the sale of cannabis in licensed premises.

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