EU in shock after Merkel successor Olaf Scholz addresses press in English

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The SPD leader tipped to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor responded to British reporters at a German press conference on Monday. Mr Scholz, who shocked German media with the move, agreed to respond to questions on the UK’s fuel crisis and truck drivers shortages in English.

The German politician was quick to blame Brexit for the issues but doing so in English showed Mr Scholz is already “rehearsing” for the top job, despite coalition talks still undergoing.

Mr Scholz told reporters: “The free movement of labour is part of the European Union.

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

“Now they decided different 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.”

German daily Tagesspiegel said they were “surprised” by Mr Scholz’s ambition to come across as an international leader at a home press conference.

While the Rheinische Post argued the move showed important differences between him and CDU leader Armin Laschet, who in turn was not asked a single international question at his own press conference on Monday.

They wrote: “There is a little chancellor flair already in the air.

“The strong presence of foreign media is at least a small indication that people in the rest of Europe believe this social democrat on the stage could succeed the great Angela Merkel after 16 years.”

The SPD chief said on Tuesday he hoped to talk to the Greens and Free Democrats later this week about forming a three-way government.

The Greens and the liberal FDP, who are far apart on many issues, have said they will first talk to each other to seek areas of compromise before starting negotiations with either the SPD or the conservatives.

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SPD parliamentary party leader Rolf Muetzenich said he welcomed the initiative of the two smaller parties to smooth out their differences, but he still wanted to talk to the potential partners in a three-way coalition this week.

“It would be good if the Greens and the FDP would also concentrate on meeting with us this week for exploratory talks,” Muetzenich told German radio.

Mr Scholz said: “I am optimistic. We will manage to build a coalition with pragmatism and readiness to cooperate.”

Mr Laschet, 60, has said he could still try to form a government despite leading his CDU/CSU bloc to their worst ever national election result.

However, Germans are not in favour of another conservative-led government: 71 percent oppose Laschet trying to become chancellor despite his poor results, according to an opinion poll by the Civey institute for the Augsburger Allgemeine daily.

Mrs Merkel, who did not seek a fifth term as chancellor, will stay on as caretaker during coalition negotiations that will set the course of Europe’s largest economy.

The SPD, Germany’s oldest party, won 25.7 percent of the vote, up 5 percentage points from the 2017 federal election and ahead of the CDU/CSU conservative bloc on 24.1 percent.

The Greens came in with 14.8 percent and the FDP won 11.5 percent.

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