Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

EU tells UK its door still 'open'

  • Macron with May in Paris on Tuesday (Photo: elysee.fr)

France and Germany have said the UK could still stay in the EU, as Britain confirmed that Brexit talks would start on Monday (19 June).

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, made the comment after meeting British prime minister Theresa May in Paris on Tuesday.

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“Of course, the [EU] door remains open, always open, until the Brexit negotiations come to an end”, he said.

The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, told the Bloomberg news agency in Berlin the same day that “if they [the British government] wanted to change their decision, of course, they would find open doors”.

Macron and Schaeuble said they “respect” Britain’s decision to leave.

The French leader said: “I would like the negotiation and then the discussions on the future relationship with the United Kingdom to be launched as soon as possible.”

But he added: “Let us be clear … once negotiations have started we should be well aware that it will be more and more difficult to move backwards.”

Schaeuble added that Germany did not want to punish the UK for leaving. “We will minimise the potential damage and maximise the mutual benefit [of Brexit]”, he said.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, also said on Tuesday that "any further delay [on Brexit negotiations] is a source of instability".

France and Germany’s “open door” comes after British elections in which May and her hard Brexit manifesto did badly.

She plans to form a coalition with Northern Irish unionists, the DUP, to stay in power, but the political turmoil had put in doubt plans to start Brexit talks next week.

The British prime minister sought to dispel that doubt on Tuesday.

“I confirmed to president Macron that the timetable remains on course and will begin next week”, she said in Paris.

She added that “the productive talks that we’re holding" with the DUP were designed to "give the stability to the UK government that I think is necessary at this time”.

May’s Brexit manifesto said Britain would quit the single market and impose curbs on EU freedom of movement.

But she said on Tuesday “we want to maintain a close relationship and a close partnership with the EU and individual member states into the future”.

Macron and May also discussed counter-terrorism cooperation, the economy, migration, defence, and climate change, Macron said.

Danish trolling

The British election result and the recent election of Macron, a pro-EU leader, have given Europe a new sense of self-confidence on Brexit.

The Danish finance minister, Kristian Jensen, showed that spirit at an event in Copenhagen on Tuesday.

“There are two kinds of European nations. There are small nations and there are countries [the UK] that have not yet realised they are small nations”, he said at a seminar entitled Road to Brexit, according to Politiken, a Danish newspaper.

Jensen mocked May’s slogan “Brexit is Brexit”, saying it “doesn’t mean anything. It’s like: ‘Breakfast means breakfast’.”

“I believe Brexit is, sorry to say, a disaster. Not for Europe but for the UK”, he said.

His comment on “small nations” drew a rebuke from the British ambassador to Denmark, Dominic Schroeder, who said he saw no sign “of a diminished or diminishing power” in the UK.

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