May plans "open and frank" Brexit talks with Merkel, Hollande

New British Prime Minister Theresa May said she plans to hold "open and frank" talks on Britain's departure from the European Union, or Brexit, with the leaders of Germany and France, on her first overseas trip since taking office.

Speaking in parliament before flying to Berlin, May said she would "discuss how we implement the decision the British people took in the referendum," referring to a June 23 vote to leave the EU.

May was scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later Wednesday, before travelling to Paris on Thursday.

Merkel will welcome May with full military honours at the chancellery building in central Berlin before hosting a working dinner with the new British leader.

"I'm very clear Brexit means Brexit," she said when asked whether she will prioritize Britain remaining in the European single market during her negotiations.

"What we need to do in negotiating the deal is to ensure that we listen to what people have said about the need for controls on free movement, but we will also negotiate the right deal and the best deal for trade in goods and services for the British people," May said.

She said the vote for Brexit had "sent a very clear message about immigration" and her government remains committed to reducing net migration to "sustainable levels," eventually to below 100,000 annually.

May and her Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo spoke by telephone on Tuesday evening about the hundreds of thousands of Poles who live and work in Britain, which was one of the few EU countries to fully open its labour market to the Eastern European countries that joined the bloc in 2004.

It is important that London preserves the free movement of people and protects the interests of Polish citizens living in Britain after Brexit, Szydlo told May, according to a statement from her office.

"I am determined that Britain will make a success of leaving the European Union and that's why I have decided to visit Berlin and Paris so soon after taking office," May said in an earlier statement.

May's office said she was expected to tell Merkel and Hollande that it will "take some time to prepare" for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU.

Merkel and many British and EU politicians have urged London to hasten its move to end its more than 40-year EU membership so as to minimize the uncertainty caused by last month's vote. But May has said she will not trigger Article 50 before the start of 2017.

"I do not underestimate the challenge of negotiating our exit from the European Union and I firmly believe that being able to talk frankly and openly about the issues we face will be an important part of a successful negotiation," she said.

May said she wants to deliver to Merkel and Hollande "a very clear message about the importance we attach to our bilateral relationship with our European partners, not just now but also when we have left the European Union."

Last update: Wed, 20/07/2016 - 14:54
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