Angela Merkel rejects key part of Article 50 letter
Theresa May's approach to Brexit rejected immediately by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, amid fears trade arrangements could default to costly WTO tariffs
May and Merkel - PA
Angela Merkel has rejected Theresa May's demand for immediate talks on Britain's future relationship with the EU.
In her letter notifying the European Council of the UK's intention to leave yesterday, the Prime Minister had requested that future deals could be agreed during the divorce settlement in order to avoid a period where trade would be under costly World Trade Organisation terms, but the German Chancellor was quick to shoot down the suggestion.
In the article 50 letter, May said: "We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU."
But in an outright rejection of Mrs May's approach, Merkel said: "The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle out inter-linked relationship, and only when this is dealt with can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship."
Comments by May in the Commons yesterday led to accusations she was threatening to withdraw Britain's co-operation over the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and the sharing of its DNA database.
"In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened," she told MPs.
"In this kind of scenario, both the United Kingdom and the European Union would of course cope with the change, but it is not the outcome that either side should seek. We must therefore work hard to avoid that outcome."
Downing Street later insisted that the Prime Minister was not issuing a threat, but had simply been pointing out the consequences of failing to reach a deal with the rest of the EU.
But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: "She is prepared to put the safety of British and European citizens on the line just so she can deliver her hard Brexit."
Labour's Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "Her willingness to walk away with no deal if she does not get the deal she wants would not only be wrong but dangerous.
"She should not be trying to use this as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. This is not a threat to the rest of Europe, it would be a serious act of self-harm."
In the Article 50 letter, May had said: "Together, I know we are capable of reaching an agreement about the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, while establishing a deep and special partnership that contributes towards the prosperity, security and global power of our continent."
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