Merkel will ‘defend interests’ of EU states in Brexit talks
German chancellor welcomed as world’s ‘most important politician’ during Mexico visit
Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto and German chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting with businessmen at the Interactive Museum of Economics in Mexico City. Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images
Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Britain to stick to the Brexit talks timetable and prevent more uncertainty clouding Germany’s upcoming federal electoral campaign.
With Theresa May’s position in peril after her election gamble backfired and talk of impeachment hanging over Donald Trump, the German leader was welcomed as “the most important politician in the world” to Argentina and Mexico.
The chancellor kept her Brexit comments vague but senior allies in Germany expressed hope that last week’s vote would see a softer EU departure, with Britain perhaps remaining in the customs union.
With an eye on their scheduled June 19th start, Dr Merkel said the time had come for talks on Brexit to begin.
“We were waiting for the election in Britain but in the next few days these talks will begin,” she said. “We will defend the interests of the 27 member states, and Britain will defend its own interests.”
German EU budget commissioner Günther Oettinger said the voter rebellion against the Tories might make it possible to “talk about closer contacts between Britain and the European Union than Mrs May planned originally”.
“If London stayed in the customs union, for instance, then all trade treaties would not have to be renegotiated, which would unburden the government massively,” he told the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
Other Merkel allies adopted similar talking points. Gunther Krichbaum, head of the Bundestag European affairs committee, said he “hoped that London opens its negotiation position and is ready to talk about membership in the customs union”.
“Britons have made clear with this election result that they reject the confrontational course adopted to date by Theresa May,” he said, adding that single market access was dependent the UK dropping its opposition to freedom of movement. “There’s no discount on that principle.”
Among the optimists cited in the German media over the weekend was former Bank of England governor Mervyn King. He described Brexit as a chance for the EU and Britain to work together on key issues of interest without being obliged to work on all because of shared EU membership.
“The business world will exert enough pressure on the governments so that open trade ties remain between Britain and Europe,” said Lord King to the Frankfurter Allgemeine. “But my impression is that none of our politicians, regardless of party, posed the decisive question in the election campaign: what will be the future role of Great Britain in Europe?”