LONDON – Theresa May is set to have a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany today, in what could be significant moment ahead of Brexit talks officially getting underway.
Merkel said earlier this month that Britain must make its negotiation position clear by the time May triggers Article 50 by the end of March, meaning it is possible that May will reveal at least some of her Brexit plan when they meet behind closed doors today.
The pair is in Berlin with other European leaders to meet with US President Barack Obama for the final time, before he makes way for the incoming Donald Trump.
However, the key development will be what is said between May and Merkel, with the former under pressure from MPs back home to be more transparent about what sort of exit deal she hopes to secure once negotiations begin.
The meeting comes after Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble warned Britain that it must “pay the price” for Brexit and lose its lucrative financial passport, which threatens London’s status as Europe’s central financial hub.
Schäuble, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats Union party, also said Britain will continue to pay billions of pounds to the 28-nation bloc for years to come. The sum comes to around €20 billion, the Financial Times says.
May has vowed on numerous occasions to deliver the best Brexit deal possible for Britain, but it has become clear in recent weeks that EU officials are in no mood to make major concessions when it comes to official exit talks.
The EU Parliament’s Guy Verhofstadt, who has been appointed as the body’s chief Brexit negotiator, told Business Insider earlier this month that his primary negotiating objective would be protecting the interests of EU citizens.
He also said Britain wouldn’t be allowed to retain single market membership if it wants to restrict immigration from the EU, a line that fellow senior officials like Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz among others have all taken.
The one-on-one meeting also comes after a week of tension between May’s government and numerous European administrations, mainly thanks to claims made by the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem accused Johnson of making “impossible promises” about what Britain can achieve in exit talks, while Italian minister Carlo Calenda said he was insulted by Johnson’s claim that Italy would be forced to sell “less prosecco” if Britain loses full single market membership.
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