Angela Merkel jibes that Britain is working MORE closely with the EU since the Brexit process was launched
- Theresa May is struggling to break the political impasse over how to do Brexit
- Angela Merkel says ‘still time’ to get deal and EU and UK working more closely
- The PM has gathered Cabinet before heading to Northern Ireland to give speech
- Hardline Brexiteers dismissed an apparent concession offer from EU yesterday
Angela Merkel took a swipe at the UK’s attitude to the EU today – saying the two were working more closely since the Brexit process was launched.
The German Chancellor delivered the dig as she insisted there is ‘still time’ to thrash out a Brexit deal despite the deep political standoff.
Mrs Merkel gave Theresa May a glimmer of hope yesterday when she said the ‘riddle’ of the UK’s departure terms could still be solved despite bitter wrangling over the Irish border backstop.
And speaking on a visit to Japan today, Mrs Merkel offered the PM more encouragement – albeit along with a backhanded compliment.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured in Japan today) delivered the dig as she insisted there is ‘still time’ to thrash out a Brexit deal despite the deep political standoff
‘Over the last two years during which we have been dealing with Britain’s exit, we have worked more closely together than during several years when Britain was a member of the European Union,’ she joked.
The comments came after Mrs Merkel accused the UK last month of not joining in with Brussels’ pet projects and seeing ties with other EU member states mainly in terms of trade.
She caused anger among MPs by saying relations had always been ‘patchy’ with Britain opting out of the euro and the Schengen border-free zone.
Speaking to Japanese and German business leaders in Tokyo today, Mrs Merkel stressed that ‘time is pressing’ and businesses using ‘just-in-time’ delivery processes could not afford lengthy customs procedures.
But she added: ‘From a political point of view, there is still time. Two months is not a long time but there is still time, and this should be used by all sides.’
Mrs May met her senior ministers in Downing Street before heading for Northern Ireland to renew her commitment to avoid a hard border.
It has been announced that she will go to Brussels for crunch talks with Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday.
But the scale of the challenge Mrs May faces has been laid bare by news that Brexiteers dismissed a compromise suggestion at a meeting with Mr Juncker’s chief aide yesterday.
The EU’s most senior official, Martin Selmayr, apparently floated the idea of inserting a legally-binding commitment into the Withdrawal Agreement that would guarantee the Irish border backstop is only temporary.
However, Tory Eurosceptics – branded ‘irreconcilables’ by despairing ministers – made clear that would not be enough to satisfy them.
Mrs Merkel has offered the PM (pictured in Downing Street today) more encouragement – albeit along with a backhanded compliment