Will Angela Merkel really resist informal talks with the UK?
Chancellor Merkel said there would be no sly informal talks between Britain and Germany ahead of formal talks on Brexit and a new relationship. Does she mean that? Some in London hope not. Angela Merkel doesn’t like surprises. Does she really want to first hear about the UK’s negotiating position at round a table with 26 other countries? The extent to which there are trusted channels of communication to test British approaches could in part come down to the chemistry the two leaders achieve here tonight,
Chancellor Merkel said “no one wants things to be up in the air” when it comes to the issue of when the UK formally moves Article 50. That sounded like a bit of impatience. But she didn’t drive that point home saying it was in everyone’s interests that the UK has a clear plan. There has been bafflement here at the UK’s vote for Brexit without any clear plan what it means.
Mrs Merkel was very tight-lipped in answer to a question about whether there was a trade-off possible if Britain got restricted access to the Single Market in a bargain struck allowing the UK to restrict EU migration.
Not so long ago, Nick Timothy (now Joint Chief of Staff at No. 10), wrote on the Conservative Home website that post-Brexit “it would almost certainly be the British Government’s policy to seek access to the Single Market, regardless of which party or prime minister was in power.”
The two leaders had much in common, Mrs May insisted. She said they were two women who seek solutions. Mrs Merkel was unusually animated when she caught up with that through the translation headphones – “exactly, I underline that in full” she said.
I mentioned yesterday how badly the Boris Johnson appointment went down with many allies. Here, one German commentator told me: “Our cool friend had already said they didn’t want to see us any more, and then you did that. It felt insulting.” Mrs May will probably be surprised that Mr Johnson has quite such an impact but as Denis MacShane always warned politicians: they (the Europeans) read our newspapers, we don’t read theirs.