Germany's plight reveals true weakness in EU's Brexit position, writes DOMINIC MIDGLEY

But while our Prime Minister was buffeted at the weekend by leaked doomladen predictions of post-Brexit chaos, he can take some consolation from the fact that the woman opposite him has gone the economic equivalent of 15 rounds with Mike Tyson. Germany, for so long a seemingly indestructible force, stands on the brink of recession after a “golden decade” of growth. The GDP of Europe’s biggest economy contracted 0.1 per cent in the three months to the end of June compared with the previous quarter.

That’s down from 0.4 per cent growth in the first three months of the year.

And industrial production has just seen its biggest annual decline in nine years.

No wonder an influential index for agency ZEW of economic sentiment in German business plunged 19.6 points earlier this month to its lowest level since 2011.

“The most recent escalation in the trade dispute between the US and China, the risk of competitive devaluations, and the increased likelihood of a no-deal Brexit place additional pressure on the already weak economic growth.”

GermanyL: Merkel's economy is exposing EU's weakness

GermanyL: Merkel's economy is exposing EU's weakness (Image: GETTY)

The German word Schadenfreude is defined as “taking pleasure from another person’s misfortune”.

Boris would not be human if he did not allow himself a little of the “S” word. F or the brutal truth is that Germany’s weakness could not come at a better time for UK plc.

With the clock ticking on the deadline for Britain’s departure from the EU on October 31, Mrs Merkel must be asking herself whether she really wants any more disruption to German trade.

Take the automotive sector.

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The UK is the world’s biggest buyer of German cars, accounting for almost one in five of its motoring exports.

With sales of BMWs, Mercedes and Volkswagens to big markets such as China already on the slide, the last thing the German car sector needs is a slowdown in its biggest overseas market. Especially as it has already dealt itself a series of self-imposed wounds.

The “Dieselgate” scandal of 2015 exploded the idea that Germany is a model of good practice.

Volkswagen, which also owns Audi and Porsche, set aside about $30billion to cover fines and settlements after it was found to be faking emissions data.

The scandal has since sucked in almost all of the nation’s big car manufacturers. And cars are not the only thing the UK imports in large quantities from Germany.

Brexit timeline: What happens next

Brexit timeline: What happens next (Image: EXPRESS)

We are also big buyers of items such as pharmaceuticals, chemical and petroleum products.

Indeed, such is our importance to the German economy that a recent survey by the Belgian University of Leuven predicted that a no-deal Brexit would lead to almost 300,000 job losses.

The myth of Teutonic efficiency has also been well and truly punctured thanks to epic cost over-runs on a number of big public sector projects.

A new Berlin airport was due to open in 2012 but is still mired in delays caused by red tape, technical problems and suspicions of bribery and the cost has spiralled from £1.8billion to £6.7billion.

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Germany news: Angela Merkel is facing a tough future

Germany news: Angela Merkel is facing a tough future (Image: GETTY)

Two years ago the Hamburg Opera House was opened at a cost of £750million, a sum that had ballooned from an initial budget of just £35million.

And Stuttgart’s new main train station was announced in 1995 but won’t be finished until at least 2021.

Even Mrs Merkel’s personal stock has suffered.

The woman who has ruled Germany for 14 years and was once seen as such a safe pair of hands she became known as “Mutti” (Mother) is now a lame-duck chancellor, having resigned as chairman of the ruling party the CDU and announced her decision to step down as Chancellor in 2021.

Her party has been haemorrhaging supporters, losing more liberal members to the Greens and conservative ones to the anti-immigration AfD, tipped to take Brandenburg – the region that includes Berlin – in elections next month.

But until she goes, Mrs Merkel is the most powerful politician in the EU, as she is at the helm of the country that is by far the biggest net contributor to the bloc’s coffers, with an annual payment of £11.7billion.

As whoever pays the piper calls the tune, this gives her enormous influence over the EU’s negotiating position when it comes to Brexit. When Boris meets Mrs Merkel tomorrow he’ll be in a strong position. But he’d still do well to engage not in Schadenfreude but “Schmeichelei” – flattery.

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