By Adam Becket
LONDON — Germany goes to the polls today to decide who will be running the country for the next four years.
As well as deciding whether Angela Merkel will return as chancellor, the elections on 24 September could have a big influence on the future shape of Europe as well as Brexit negotiations.
Here's everything you need to know about how the German elections could shift Brexit.
What is likely to happen?
Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union's main challenger in the election is Martin Schulz's Social Democratic Party, but Merkel leads the way in the polls and was widely accepted to have won the last leader's debate.
Merkel is therefore likely to stay. However, when it comes to likely governing coalitions, the outcome is more in flux. Bookies currently have the narrow favourite outcome as a coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD. However lots of other outcomes are possible
A change of governing coalition is therefore viewed favourably by some Brexit supporters with Brexit secretary David Davis saying that he is optimistic" about the German elections and he thinks it will "accelerate the progress" of negotiations.
Will the elections really shift Brexit negotiations?
While it is clear that all of the main parties in the German elections want a deal with the UK over its exit from the EU, they also want to make sure it suffers the repercussions of leaving the bloc, particularly if it leaves the single market and customs union.
Martin Schulz is a former president of the European Parliament, and Angela Merkel has been committed to the EU and the Eurozone for all of her tenure as chancellor.
All the parties echo the CDU/CSU-led government's current view that in order to enjoy any benefits of EU membership, the UK must accept the four freedoms of movement – goods, people, services and capital.
The CDU/CSU's policy on Brexit is that damage for the country and its citizens should be limited and countries outside of the EU cannot have access to its advantages.
The SDP's policy is very similar, in that they say there can be no "cherry-picking" and the principles of the single market will not be changed under any circumstances.
Smaller parties will have an impact
Other possible coalition partners alongside the CDU/CSU have more interesting things to say about Brexit, offering different options to parts of the UK.
The Greens suggest in their manifesto that Scotland and Northern Ireland should be given a route back into the EU if they decide to split from the UK, and the Free Democratic Party want to allow Scotland an open door should they wish to join the bloc.
Support for the EU is strong in Germany, and the only party that is eurosceptic in its approach is Alternative for Deutschland, who propose using the threat of the country leaving the EU and the Eurozone in order to leverage reforms.
The German government's approach to Brexit could slightly change depending on the coalition formed around the CDU/CSU, with a grand coalition with the SDP still possible, as well as a smaller coalition with either the Greens or the SDP.
The UK government remains hopeful that any slight change in the German government could shift the country and the wider EU's attitude to Brexit.