Angela Merkel has said Brexit will have a price
The tough-talking German chancellor reiterated her stance that the UK cannot end freedom of movement without the rest of the continent taking counter-measures.
It is the latest sign of Mrs Merkel, who is facing a re-election battle later this year, significantly upping her rhetoric against Britain as the negotiations draw near.
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Her no-nonsense approach is likely to play well with German voters but could cause friction when the long-awaited talks finally get under way.
They are also tactically designed to try and keep the remaining 27 member states together amid fears fissures could open up as the reality of Brexit dawns.
In a slightly more conciliatory tack today the Berlin chief did promise the UK “fair treatment” at the hands of the EU27 and said the bloc was not seeking revenge.
However, in a warning shot to Theresa May and the UK’s negotiating team she insisted: “Of course, leaving the EU has a price."
She added: “As it looks now, Britain is not ready to accept free movement. You have to see how we can counterbalance this."
Theresa May has repeatedly vowed to impose stricter immigration measures after the UK officially leaves the EU in 2019.
Of course, leaving the EU has a price
But earlier this week Mrs Merkel warned her against the move, saying Britain would pay the "price" by taking control of its borders.
And she insisted the EU would consider the views of Remain voters when Brexit negotations finally get underway later this year.
The German leader said: "If the British government ends the free movement of people, that will have its price.
"This isn't malicious, but they cannot say there will be an upper limit of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens, no more.
"That will not work. We would have to think about what obstacle we create from the European side to compensate for that."
The Changing Faces of Angela Merkel
Wed, May 17, 2017
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and her ever changing face through the years
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German Chancellor campaigns in German Federal State Schleswig-Holstein
Mrs Merkel also urged the UK to maintain a "level playing field" with the bloc to avoid harming businesses and workers.
And she warned Brexit negotiations would be "very, very complicated".
The Chancellor said: "We will, of course, always think in the future relationship of the 48 or 49 per cent who didn't back Brexit."
In the Tory manifesto, released yesterday, Mrs May has promised to bring net migration to Britain down to the tens of thousands.
However, the PM has not set a timeframe for when she will do so, with ministers insisting the process must be carried out carefully and with the economy in mind.