Germany is about to be plunged into a rolling crisis that will make Britain look like an oasis – The Telegraph

Dry Rhine threatens to trigger a full-scale industrial shock
Britain is suffering from a crisis of everything at the moment, it seems, but the situation evokes memories of a scene in Fawlty Towers where Basil is told “just remember Mr Fawlty there’s always someone worse off than you,” to which he replies: “Really? I’d love to meet them. I could do with a bloody laugh.”
The Basil Fawlty of today might find comfort by casting an eye across the North Sea and beyond, to Germany no less, which is about to be plunged into a rolling crisis that could make Britain look like a veritable oasis by comparison. 
The Rhine, one of the mightiest rivers in the world, and the most crucial commercial artery for the continent’s largest economy, is on the verge of drying up as Europe bakes in record temperatures and suffers from a paucity of rainfall. 
Plainly, this is the last thing that Berlin needs right now. It threatens to trigger a full-scale industrial shock in a nation renowned for its manufacturing prowess.
Facing a recession, and grappling with the prospect of acute winter energy shortages thanks to its shocking over-dependence on oil and gas from Vladimir Putin, a dry Rhine is something that the region’s economic powerhouse can ill-afford. Factories, agriculture, municipal buildings, commercial premises and vital civic amenities, already asked to dim their lights and use less water to save energy, all stand to be badly affected.
There are ramifications too for other parts of Europe, particularly landlocked countries in central and eastern Europe that normally get fuel via the Rhine, according to the International Energy Agency.
Crunch time came on Friday when water levels at Kaub, a key choke point west of Frankfurt, dropped below the critical 40cm mark. By Monday, they are expected to have shrunk again to a mere 34cm. At such shallow depths, the Rhine essentially becomes little more than a puddle for vessels, rendering it largely impassible for large barges that carry the lifeblood of the German economy.
It will be disastrous for trade, halting the flow of fuels, chemicals, grains, paper products and other vital raw materials to factories and agriculture from northern Europe’s three major trading ports – Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp. Analysts estimate that the transportation of 400,000 barrels a day of oil, petrol, diesel and kerosene would be disrupted.
Each day an estimated 6,900 vessels with a transport capacity of 10m tonnes pass through this 766 mile river, which zigzags through Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Further pressure on already buckling supply chains would push costs even higher for businesses, with obvious consequences for efforts to halt inflation. Freight charges on the Rhine have risen to around €110 ($112) per tonne from €20 euros in June for a liquid tanker barge, according to Reuters. 
Inflation currently averages 8.6pc across the continent but has hit 10pc in Spain, 12pc in Greece and 20pc in Estonia sparking fears of a second Eurozone crisis.
Berlin’s political elite should have seen this coming. Water levels on the Rhine typically average around 2.2m but as far back as March it had breached the low water alert level of less than a metre after an unusually dry winter. 
Some contingency plans were adopted. BASF, which has a huge plant on the river, has created new barges that work in shallower waters, but warned last week it may still have to cut production. Construction work aimed at deepening channels at key shallow points has also begun. But mostly the response has been too slow.
Economists estimate the disruption could knock as much as half a percentage point off Germany’s overall economic growth this year. On its own that may not sound disastrous, but this is an economy the IMF recently predicted to slow sharply from from 2.9pc growth to just 1.2pc this year. In that context, a further fall of that size would leave Germany languishing at the bottom of the G7 and EU league table by a significant margin. 
With Putin yet to really put the squeeze on energy exports, Germany faces the bleakest of winters.
Yet we cannot overlook our own problems: rocketing energy prices; water shortages; a crumbling NHS; overcrowded and delayed or cancelled trains; widespread strikes; chaos at the airports; a power vacuum at the heart of Government.
This is not “catastrophism” as some have suggested, nor is it a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the country is talked into a deeper malaise. It is the reality of where the country stands today, and no amount of breezy optimism or sugar-coating will magically lift us out of the slump. 
Voters must be treated like adults, which is why Rishi Sunak deserves credit for being more honest about some of the problems the UK faces.
But those in need of schadenfreude can still look across the Channel to Europe.
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