Brexit looms large as Germany welcomes new UK Prime Minister Theresa May

Brexit looms large as Germany welcomes new UK Prime Minister Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been making her first official foreign visit, talking to Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. Both appeared to strike a conciliatory tone over future "Brexit" negotiations.

 

May was greeted by a military band as she arrived for talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on Wednesday, with Brexit featuring high on the agenda.

 

The two leaders stressed that Britain and Germany retained many common interests, and that the process of negotiations over Brexit should reflect that.

 

Chancellor Merkel said that Germany and the EU were listening to what Britain wants, and that they would give a response at the appropriate time. Merkel said she was willing to wait until Britain had a "well defined position" on Brexit.

 

Merkel, who welcomed the fact that May was visiting Germany so early in her term of office, stressed that negotiations on a "Brexit" could only begin when London had triggered Article 50 - the formal mechanism to leave the bloc.

 

"From my point of view it's completely understandable that a few days after the referendum, a few days after a new government in Great Britain is formed, that the government has to first think what are our interests, what exactly do they look like."

 

"It is in all of our interests for Britain to apply for the exit with a very well-defined negotiating position," said Merkel.

 

However, Merkel said there should not be a long period of uncertainty. "Nobody wants a long period of limbo - neither the British people nor European member states."

 

'Need for clarity'

 

Theresa May said Britain would not ask to leave the European Union before the end of 2016 in order to plan a "sensible and orderly departure".

 

"All of us will need time to prepare for these negotiations and the United Kingdom will not invoke Article 50 until our objectives are clear. "

 

"That's why I have said already- this will not happen before the end of this year. I understand this timescale will not please everyone but I think it is important to provide clarity on that now."

 

"We should strive for a solution which respects the decision of British voters, but also respects the interests of our European partners."

 

"I've been clear that Brexit means Brexit," said May. "But I also want to be clear that we are not walking away from our European friends. The nature of our relationship is going to change but we want to maintain the closest possible ties."

 

Both leaders paid tribute to those who were hurt in the Würzburg ax attack, when five people were injured by a man wielding a weapon on board a train carriage on Monday.

 

May's office had said earlier that the trip would help forge "personal relations that will pave the way for open and frank discussions in the months ahead" regarding Brexit. May is set to follow her Berlin visit with a trip to Paris to meet President Francois Hollande.

 

 

DW

 

 

22.07.2016

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