Merkel Warns Against Harsh Brexit Stance as Macron Doubles Down
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday warned European Union leaders against taking an excessively harsh line with the U.K. over Brexit -- but French President Emmanuel Macron turned up the heat.
Echoing concerns voiced by her party leadership earlier in the day, Merkel said negotiations need to proceed without acrimony to produce a “fundamental vision” of a future relationship by November.
“It’s very important for me that we do this in friendship,” Merkel told a town hall meeting in Hanover, Germany, after executives from her Christian Democratic Union expressed concern that EU leaders’ tough stance risks backfiring.
British Prime Minister Theresa May was struggling to reassert her authority after the U.K. press concluded she’d been humiliated by EU leaders when they rejected her proposals at a summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg. In a televised statement from Downing Street Friday, May demanded respect from her European counterparts.
All the same, Macron, the most strident critic of the U.K. in Salzburg, upped the pressure on May, insisting he wants negotiations concluded next month, rather than in November as other leaders have suggested, according to a presidential aide. Macron’s government will present a series of contingency measures to keep French borders and transport links with the U.K. running even if there’s no deal in place by the time Britain is due to leave the bloc next March.
For Macron, it’s about conveying how much work must still be done, the official said.
In Berlin, the general secretary of Merkel’s CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said party leaders had discussed the “very harsh tone” that emerged at the Salzburg summit. Pro-Europeans in the U.K. already “are feeling under attack,” she said. Norbert Roettgen, a CDU lawmaker who chairs the German parliament’s foreign-affairs committee, told the Rheinische Post newspaper at the weekend that the tough line had been a mistake.
British officials had expected a warm welcome at the gathering in Austria and were shocked when EU chiefs rejected her Brexit proposals in the so-called Chequers plan. Macron said the U.K.’s exit from the bloc must extract a “cost.”
Merkel offered a more optimistic assessment, saying a key goal is to make trade in goods “uncomplicated,” though “it probably won’t happen completely without controls.” On the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, she suggested technological advances could help keep track of goods moving in and out of the EU single market.
“There are many modern methods with which to do that,” she said.
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