EU's top negotiator calls for clarity from London on Brexit

Alicia Cross
February 17, 2018

The Prime Minister, speaking alongside the German leader following talks in Berlin, said she wanted a "bold and ambitious partnership", but it was not a "one-way street" as European Union firms also stood to benefit.

With little more than a year to go before Britain leaves the EU, Merkel struck an upbeat tone after the talks, which she described as "a very constructive, friendly meeting".

Speaking after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, May stressed the importance of economic ties between Britain and Germany that she said "secures and generates hundreds of thousands of jobs in both countries".

Mrs Merkel's position offers a more positive outlook on Brexit talks than that previously presented by European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Mr Barnier said last month that even an ambitious trade deal could not change the fact that the United Kingdom would need to rely on equivalence - the standard market access arrangements for non-EU countries.

The German chancellor said she believed that it could be possible to agree a bespoke deal rather than a traditional model, such as those with Norway and Canada.

During an exchange with journalists Ms Merkel said the German position on Brexit had not changed, adding: "We deplore it".

It is in sharp contrast to the views of some campaigners at big business organisations and the survey also reveals that a majority of French German and Spanish firms think Brexit will be good for the EU

On the issue of trading in services, which account for almost 80pc of the UK's economic activity, the report said: "A free trade agreement would still be needed to cover arrangements relating to services, as well as areas in which the European Union has made clear it wants a continued level playing field, in order to maintain any reciprocal preferential market access".

Rachel Kent, partner at law firm Hogan Lovells and chair of the IRSG's work on the plan, said equivalence was "suboptimal for a variety of reasons" and would not work for Britain's financial services industry.

Appearing alongside her German host, the Prime Minister spoke of her wish for a "bold and ambitious partnership", but stressed it was bit a "one-way street" as such an outcome would also benefit the bloc.

She said: "The point of negotiations is two parties sit down and talk about these issues and come to an agreement about those issues".

The Liberal Democrats said Mrs Merkel's use of the term "curious" was a "diplomatic way of saying "nonsensical".

As part of her trip to Germany, the Prime Minister will outline her wishes for a future security EU-UK partnership in a speech at a security conference in Munich on Saturday.

"We want to adhere to the timetable, that means we are under time pressure", she said.

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