German reaction to the UK’s Brexit vote

Fortune — The global reaction to the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU is generally one of shock. But the reactions of politicians and business leaders in one particular European country are particularly worthy of attention. Germany is, after all, the powerhouse of the union.

The first major German reaction came from Manfred Weber, a Bavarian member of the European Parliament and the leader of the centre-right European People’s Party, the biggest political bloc in that parliament.

“Leave means leave,” Weber said in a press conference.

This was a reference to the idea that the U.K. can now take months to decide when to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty—the mechanism that officially triggers the divorce proceedings between the U.K. and the EU.

 The “Brexit” camp is keen to take its time in order to maximise its leverage, but the European Parliament, with Germans at the forefront, is in no mood to wait around. This is understandable, as the great institutions of the EU want to avoid contagion, and have little incentive to play nice with the country that just spat in their direction.
As for Angela Merkel (whose Christian Democratic Union works in tandem with Weber’s Bavaria-specific Christian Social Union), the German chancellor is in a more cautious mode.

Merkel said she had “deep regret” over the U.K.’s decision, but the remaining 27 members of the EU should be “willing and able to not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum…which would only further divide Europe.”

The chancellor said the countries should “calmly and prudently analyze and evaluate the situation, before making the right decisions together.”

Meanwhile, the business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Merkel’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, had secretly drawn up a plan for what would happen in the event of Brexit.

Schäuble and Merkel would apparently like to see a treaty between the EU and the U.K., covering trading rules and other regulations that would “not offer too much leeway to Britain in gaining access to the European Union’s internal market.” Again, the aim here is to avoid creating incentives for other countries to consider following the U.K.’s lead, and leaving the EU.

Handelsblatt also said Merkel and Schäuble want to avoid letting France and Italy use the Brexit pandemonium to push for a greater pooling of liabilities in the Eurozone.

Merkel’s coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), said the U.K.’s vote for Brexit should be seen as a signal for the rest of the EU to press its case for greater integration—precisely what the Brexit voters reacted against. The party said committed Europeans had “failed to clearly point out” that the fears motivating the shift—over immigration, employment and refugees—were “unjustified.”

The German industrial sector is bracing itself for a tumultuous time.

“We deeply regret the outcome of this referendum,” said Markus Kerber, the director general of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). “The decision deals a heavy blow to the United Kingdom itself, to the EU and to Germany–both in political and economic terms.”

Kerber said German companies based in the U.K. could suffer a “heavy blow” from the country’s potential loss of access to the EU single market.

“We expect business with the U.K. to nosedive in the coming months,” he said. “Bilateral trade will inevitably suffer and new direct investments by Germany in the U.K. are extremely unlikely.”