Brexit: Theresa May arrives in Berlin for talks with Merkel – but no one is there to greet her

Prime minister’s Germany visit gets off to awkward start after apparent mix-up at chancellery

Tom Barnes
Tuesday 09 April 2019 12:09
Brexit: Theresa May arrives in Berlin for talks with Merkel – but no one is there to greet her

Theresa May’s last-ditch Brexit talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel got off to a toe-curling start after no one was on hand to meet the prime minister as she arrived to much fanfare in Berlin.

German officials had provided a red carpet and military guard for Ms May ahead of her meeting to discuss another delay to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

However, Ms Merkel was nowhere to be seen as the prime minister’s car pulled up at the chancellery in Berlin on Tuesday, forcing her to make the walk inside on her own.

Suggestion the move may have been intended was tempered after the two leaders were then swiftly taken back outside to pose for media photographs.

Ms May scheduled meetings with both Ms Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday ahead of an emergency EU summit on Wednesday.

Downing Street said the prime minister asked the chancellor to back her case for extending the Article 50 withdrawal process until 30 June.

Her trip to Paris to convince Mr Macron to also get on board with the plan is expected to be a trickier task, with the French president warning in recent days a further delay to Brexit was not guaranteed.

Ms May has asked for the date of Brexit to be delayed until 30 June, with the possibility of an earlier departure if the UK’s withdrawal deal is ratified.

However, European Council president Donald Tusk is recommending a year-long delay, while France’s Europe minister Amelie de Montchalin hinted Paris my insist on conditions limiting British influence within the EU during that time.

The unanimous agreement of all 27 remaining EU states is still needed to avoid a no-deal Brexit taking place on 12 April.

Meanwhile, cross-party talks between the Conservatives and Labour continue in Westminster, which could see measures such as a customs union or a Final Say referendum amendment tacked on to Ms May’s deal to force it through the Commons.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Brussels could amend the political declaration on its future relationship with the UK “within a few hours or days”, to incorporate a customs union.

But, he said the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the terms for the UK’s exit from the bloc, could not be renegotiated.

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“The withdrawal agreement is not going to be reopened, is not up for negotiation again. That continues to be the case,” Mr Barnier told a press conference in Luxembourg.

“The political declaration, which will set the framework for future relations, can be improved, we can provide an increased level of ambition if that is the wish of the UK.

“These ambitions for the future relationship, which could - for example - consist of adding to the free trade agreement on which we have agreed with the UK already a customs union, a genuine customs union.”

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