Merkel speaks out: No ‘cherry picking’ for Britain in Brexit talks

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor. [Shutterstock]

The European Union must consider limiting Britain’s access to its market if London fails to accept the bloc’s ‘four freedoms’ in Brexit negotiations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday (9 January).

Merkel’s remarks add to pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been criticised for hinting at a “hard Brexit” – in which border controls are prioritised over market access – and had to clarify her comments.

May denies UK heading for ‘hard Brexit’, as sterling falls

Theresa May denied Monday (9 January) that the UK was heading for a ‘hard Brexit’, in the wake of the resignation of the UK ambassador to the EU, and her own core focus on controlling immigration.

The most controversial of the ‘freedoms’ in Britain is freedom of movement within the EU.

“One cannot lead these (Brexit) negotiations based in the form of ‘cherry picking’,” Merkel said in a speech before members of the German Civil Service Association in the city of Cologne.

“This would have fatal consequences for the remaining 27 EU states,” added Merkel. “Britain is, for sure, an important partner with whom one would want to have good relations even after an exit from the EU.”

But it was important, said the chancellor, “that on the other hand, we are clear that, for example, access to the single market is only possible under the condition of adherence to the four basic principles. Otherwise one has to negotiate limits (of access)”.

Merkel urges Britain to quickly clarify relationship with EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday (11 July) access to the European Union’s single market meant accepting the bloc’s basic freedoms and rejected suggestions from London that Britain could retain full EU market access while curbing immigration.

May said on Monday that a clean break with the EU’s single market is not inevitable, clarifying comments that had pushed down the pound on the possibility of a hard Brexit.

She had said during an interview at the weekend that Britain would not be able to keep “bits” of its membership of the bloc.

May has repeatedly said she will not reveal her strategy before triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty to start some of the most complicated negotiations since World War Two.

She has largely stuck to the script that she wants Britain to regain control over immigration, restore its sovereignty and also to get the best possible trading relations with the EU.

The single market emerged from the 1992 Maastricht Treaty on European integration. This enshrines the EU’s “four freedoms” – of movement of goods, capital, people, and services.

May promises UK will have 'control over borders' after Brexit

UK Prime Minister Theresa May insisted on Sunday (8 January) that Britain will have “control over our borders” after Brexit, suggesting she would be prepared to quit Europe’s trading zone to achieve it.