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19th Aug 2018

Merkel backs May on extra time for EU exit talks

  • British PM Theresa May listens to German chancellor Merkel at their joint press conference (Photo: Prime minister's office)

Two of Europe’s most powerful women met in Berlin on Wednesday (20 July) for a first discussion on how and when the UK should start the painful process of leaving the EU.

Despite earlier calls to trigger the article 50 exit procedure in the EU treaty, German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday backed the UK’s new prime minister, Theresa May’s, plan to start official discussions only next year.

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“I find it absolutely understandable that there is a certain amount of time needed,” Merkel said at their joint press conference in the German capital.

“No one wants this to be up in the air. I don’t think British citizens do, nor do EU member states. But we all have an interest in this matter being carefully prepared, positions being clearly defined and delineated,” she said.

She added that it is in everybody’s interests for the UK to give clear details on its negotiating position and its views on future EU relations.

May said that she wanted discussions to take place in a constructive spirit in order “to make this a sensible and orderly departure.”

She also said that while Brexit meant the UK would leave the EU, it did not mean that Britain would disengage from its allies.

“We are not walking away from European friends, and Germany will remain a vital partner, and special friend for us,” May said at the press conference.

May and Merkel are both down to earth politicians with a no-nonsense style. They are also both daughters of preachers and very close in age and seem to have gotten on well in Berlin.

At one point in the press conference, May said: “We have two women here who have got on and had a very constructive discussion. Two women who, if I may say so, get on with the job and want to deliver the best results for the people of the UK and the people of Germany.”

Merkel responded: “Exactly. I can only subscribe to that.”

May will have a tougher time in Paris, where she travels on Thursday.

French president Francois Hollande has urged May to invoke article 50 as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, EU officials are trying to set up guidelines and common rules for the article 50 provisions, so that there are no misunderstandings during the official Brexit talks about the procedure, the Financial Times reported.

This could mean agreeing to a timetable, and an agreement on whether there would be parallel discussions on a future trade deal.

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