The German chancellor this morning met with new Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni in Berlin after Theresa May yesterday set out her Brexit blueprint.
Mrs Merkel welcomed the Prime Minister’s speech setting out her strategy for the UK’s EU exit but insisted the EU would present a united front in Article 50 negotiations.
Mrs May had warned the EU to learn the “lesson” of Brexit and provide greater flexibility for individual European countries in order to avoid “crushing” nation states or risking the future of the bloc.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted the EU would remain united during Brexit talks
Mrs Merkel said the remaining 27 EU member states now had “a clearer impression” of what Britain wants from divorce talks, while repeating her insistence Brexit negotiations will not be allowed to start until Mrs May formally notifies Brussels of Britain’s wish to quit the EU.
Mrs Merkel said: “The speech made by British Prime Minister Theresa May has given us a clear impression of how Great Britain wants to proceed but nonetheless the negotiations will only start when the application has been made in accordance with Article 50.
“The be-all and end-all is that Europe does not let itself be divided, and we will ensure that with very intensive contacts.”
Mrs Merkel added EU governments would consult with business sectors and declared she is "not worried that we will not stick together."
Mr Gentiloni backed up Mrs Merkel’s comments. He said: "There will be solidarity among ourselves; there will of course also be friendship toward the UK."
The be-all and end-all is that Europe does not let itself be divided
Yesterday, in her speech outlining the Government’s Brexit aims, Mrs May presented a warning to the EU not to prove inflexible over the UK’s exit and accept Britain’s desire to walk away.
The Prime Minister even suggested the bloc could crumble if it does not reform in the wake of last summer’s Leave vote in Britain.
She said: “There is a lesson in Brexit not just for Britain but, if it wants to succeed, for the EU itself.
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“Our continent’s great strength has always been its diversity. And there are two ways of dealing with different interests.
“You can respond by trying to hold things together by force, tightening a vice-like grip that ends up crushing into tiny pieces the very things you want to protect.
“Or you can respect difference, cherish it even, and reform the EU so that it deals better with the wonderful diversity of its member states.”
May's Brexit speech: Europe reacts
Tue, January 17, 2017
Politicians and celebrities tweet their reaction as Theresa May unveils her 12 point plan for Britain leaving the EU.
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The British Prime Minister Delivers Her Brexit Speech
The Prime Minister had also told the EU 27 not to seek to punish Britain for the Brexit vote, vowing she would walk away from divorce talks with no deal rather than a bad deal.
Mrs May last night spoke with Mrs Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, as well as top EU officials.
A Downing Street spokeswoman revealed the Prime Minister had informed the German and French leaders “the UK wanted the EU to thrive, understood the importance of the ‘four freedoms’ of the Single Market and that the UK would not be seeking membership of the Single Market”.
They added: “Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande both welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to the continuing strength of the EU, and her intention to negotiate a new partnership with the EU when it leaves.”