German minister sees hope of 'soft' Brexit

Cheryl Sanders
June 20, 2017

Other EU governments will be happy to let Britain keep trade open as it would limit the hit to their own economies, officials told Reuters, though they are not ready to ease conditions that May would struggle to sell to her party's Brexit hardliners.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted last June to become the first nation ever to leave the 28-nation EU. Nearly a year after Britain voted to leave its biggest market, the talks come amid signs the U.K.is softening its approach to the split and adopting a more conciliatory tone.

Jean-Claude Juncker: The European Commission president will not be directly involved in talks and his spokesman has said he is unlikely to spend more than half an hour a week on Brexit.

It comes on the first day of the complex Brexit talks, with Mr Davis and European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier announcing the timetable and negotiation plan for the United Kingdom leaving the bloc.

However, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis warned the "very sensitive" issue of the Irish Border may not be resolved until near the end of the Brexit talks.


"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", rather than tackle the big hard issues right at the start, a European source said.

German federal elections could see Angela Merkel replaced as Chancellor by former European Parliament president and staunch federalist Martin Schulz, who once called for the creation of a "genuine European government".

The vote came as a profound shock to Brussels against a backdrop of rising anti-EU sentiment, with many - including now US President Donald Trump - predicting the bloc's eventual break-up. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues.

May, who won the top job in the wake of last year's vote to leave the European Union, had in January set out her plans for Brexit, saying Britain would leave the single market so it could control immigration.

A general election wiped out May's parliamentary majority earlier this month and her position has been weakened further in the wake of a deadly fire in a London apartment building. The move backfired, May lost her Conservative majority in the vote and has been fending off critics of her leadership ever since.


May herself will also have a chance to update the other 27 European Union leaders on her Brexit plans at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of Merkel, also easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base.

Mrs May has said Britain will leave both the single market and the customs union.

The most senior officials on either side will lead work on efforts to resolve the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a situation Mr Barnier acknowledged was "politically sensitive" at a time when the Tory government was seeking the support of the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up Mrs May's minority government.

"If we're going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge", he said.


Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019.

Other reports by iNewsToday

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