German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday she assumed Britain would stick to its plan for leaving the European Union after the country’s election upset, and that she wanted to work quickly on talks over Brexit. British voters failed to deliver a widely expected parliamentary majority for the Conservative party in Thursday’s general election, dealing a major blow to Prime Minister Theresa May just days ahead of difficult Brexit talks with the EU.
Speaking during a visit to Mexico City, Merkel said Germany was ready for the Brexit talks, which May said would begin on June 19 as scheduled – although she now risks more opposition to her EU departure plans from inside and outside her party. “I assume that Britain, from what I heard from the Prime Minister today, wants to stick to its negotiating plan,” Merkel told a news conference alongside President Enrique Pena Nieto. “We want to negotiate quickly, we want to stick to the time plan, and so at this point I don’t think there is anything to suggest these negotiations cannot start as was agreed.”
May, who had called a snap election confident her Conservative Party would increase its majority and strengthen her hand in the Brexit talks, on Friday said she would lead a minority government backed by a small Northern Irish party. British politicians differ widely on what they want from the Brexit negotiating process, seeing it as a way to shift Britain either to the right or left. Some parliamentarians in both the Conservative and Labour parties want to remain in the EU.
EU leaders expressed concern that May’s loss of her majority would raise the risk of negotiations failing, resulting in a legal limbo for people and business. Merkel said Britain was part of Europe regardless of Brexit, and that she wanted the country to remain a good partner. “Britain is a member of NATO, so we have a lot of shared challenges to deal with, and that’s the spirit we want to carry out these negotiations in. But obviously while also asserting the interests of the 27 member states that will make up the European Union in future,” she added.