May to Visit Merkel for First Talks on U.K.’s Post-Brexit Place
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then French President Francois Hollande this week as she makes the case for Britain remaining a powerful player in the world after the country voted to leave the European Union.
The premier will on Monday use her first appearance in parliament since succeeding David Cameron to argue for renewing the Trident nuclear-weapons system after a weekend in which the team overseeing the divorce from the EU began to set out their plans. She will then travel to Berlin on Wednesday for a working dinner with Merkel followed by talks with Hollande in Paris on Thursday, her office said.
The Berlin trip “will be an opportunity to discuss the bilateral relationship, cooperation on a range of global challenges, and of course how the U.K. and Germany can work together as the U.K. prepares to leave the EU,” May’s office said in an e-mailed statement. The talks in France “are likely to cover similar issues as those in Berlin, as well as Thursday’s attack in Nice and counter-terrorism co-operation.”
May’s intervention in the Trident debate in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon will demonstrate that after the Brexit vote “we are certainly not turning our back on the security of Europe and the rest of the world,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon wrote in an article for The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“We cannot compromise on our national security, we cannot outsource the grave responsibility we shoulder for keeping our people safe,” May will say, according to extracts of her speech released by her office. “We cannot abandon our ultimate safeguard out of misplaced idealism; that would be a reckless gamble, a gamble that would enfeeble our allies and embolden our enemies.”
The prime minister will also travel to Wales on Monday to reassert her commitment to involve all nations of the U.K. in negotiations for leaving the EU after making the same pledge in Scotland on Friday. Just over three weeks since the Brexit vote, some of its chief advocates -- who now find themselves in positions of power -- are putting forward their plans for a more outward-looking Britain as a result of the split.
Chief Brexit negotiator David Davis said he is confident the U.K. can retain access to the European single market while tightening restrictions on migration. Newly appointed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Brexit is an opportunity for Britain to be “truly global,” while Trade Secretary Liam Fox said he has started lining up deals to be put in place once Britain leaves the bloc.
The comments echo claims made by “Leave” advocates during the referendum campaign that Britain could play a more influential role on the global stage outside the EU and maintain trade links while setting its own terms.
The EU “must realize the British public have made it clear where they stand on regaining control of our borders,” Davis, who was appointed last week, said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “At the end of the day the initial anger will be replaced by common interest.”
Key Battle Line
That cements a key battle line in the negotiations over Britain’s relationship with the EU. While Merkel said last week that the U.K. should be given time “to thoroughly think” about what kind of relationship it wants with Europe, she and other EU leaders agree there can be no access to the single market without the associated freedom of movement.
Johnson -- who wrote in the Telegraph that the U.K. “should be more outward-looking, more engaged, and more active on the world stage than ever before” -- was in Brussels on Monday to participate in a meeting of EU foreign ministers. He may receive a frosty reception, after French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that Johnson “lied a lot to the British people” during the referendum campaign and now “finds himself with his back against the wall.”
“We have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the European Union,” Johnson told reporters as he arrived. “That in no sense means we’re leaving Europe; we are not in any way going to be abandoning our leading role in European cooperation, participation of all kinds.”
In London, the vote on Trident will give the Conservatives the chance to deepen splits within the opposition Labour Party. Leader Jeremy Corbyn, currently facing a challenge for his post, will vote against renewal, in line with his longstanding beliefs. Many of his lawmakers will vote in favor, in line with their party’s longstanding policy.