UK

Angela Merkel Warns Britain Will Be Stopped From 'Cherry Picking' Over Brexit

The German chancellor spoke to cheers and applause.

06/12/2016 12:17 GMT | Updated 30/01/2017 15:26 GMT
Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters
Angela Merkel addresses the CDU party convention in Essen, Germany on Tuesday

Angela Merkel today issued a clear signal that she does not intend to give Britain much leeway in its Brexit negotiations - as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator set an 18 month deadline.

The German Chancellor told her party’s conference that Theresa May’s government would need to respect freedom of movement and the single market as it plots to leave the EU.

“We will not allow any cherry picking,” Merkel said to cheers from 1,000 Christian Democrat Union delegates in the western rust belt city of Essen.

Stefanie Loos / Reuters
Theresa May and Angela Merkel have spoken about Britain's strategy for Brexit

“The four basic freedoms must be safeguarded ― freedom of movement for people, goods, services and financial market products. Only then can there be access to the single market,” she added.

Freedom of movement and access to the single market remain stumbling blocks for the government as it wavers between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Brexit strategies.

Last week it was reported that Britain could pay to retain access to the single market, reaping the benefits of freer trade with Europe while relinquishing the ability to influence rules and regulations.

POOL New / Reuters
Merkel has reportedly refused to accept some of the British government's Brexit negotiating positions

Earlier on Tuesday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told Theresa May: “We are ready, keep calm and negotiate.” 

The EU official repeated the phrase twice, to drive home the pointed reference to the British pre-WWII campaign “keep calm and carry on” poster designed to prepare the population for war.

A No.10 spokesman, asked directly if Barnier had been “trolling” the prime minister, said: “We’re entering the negotiations in the spirit of good will. And we will do it calmly.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Michel Barnier is the EU's lead Brexit negotiator and made the comments on Tuesday, as Merkel spoke elsewhere

Theresa May and Angela Merkel discussed Brexit during the prime minister’s visit to Germany in July, but have since appeared to disagree on terms of the UK’s exit.

Reports last week claimed Merkel rebuffed May’s plea for an early agreement on reciprocal rights when they met in Berlin on November 18.

And European Council president Donald Tusk rejected a plea from 80 British MPs to intervene to end the deadlock.

In a letter, Mr Tusk said he wanted to “avoid a situation where citizens become ‘bargaining chips’ in the negotiation” but insisted that the issue can only be addressed once withdrawal talks begin under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

Merkel also used the speech to say the full facial veil, or burqa, should be “prohibited wherever possible”.

Reporters said this part of Merkel’s speech was enthusiastically received by the audience.