Germany′s Steinmeier warns UK not to delay Brexit talks | News | DW | 04.11.2016
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Germany's Steinmeier warns UK not to delay Brexit talks

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for Brexit negotiations to start as soon as possible. His UK counterpart Boris Johnson has said a key court decision would not interfere with the current timeline.

One day after Britain's High Court ruled the government needs parliament's approval to initiate the process of leaving the European Union, Germany's foreign minister cautioned the UK against stalling the process on Friday.

"We need to ensure that the talks begin quickly even if the court decided this week that the British parliament must be consulted. Further delay isn't in anyone's interests," Steinmeier said after meeting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Berlin.

The meeting was Johnson's first bilateral visit to Berlin since taking office. He assured those present that the court's ruling would not interfere with Prime Minister Theresa May's timetable for Brexit talks; she has said she intends to trigger the exit process no later than the end of March 2017.

He described Britain's pending exit from the European bloc as a "huge opportunity," adding that "with the right spirit, I believe we can turn these negotiations into a win-win discussion."

May also sought to reassure EU leaders on Friday, telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that she believed the government's appeal would win in Britain's Supreme Court - removing the need for parliamentary approval.

'Preferred' Brexit options

One Sky News reporter asked whether Steinmeier's "preferred option" for negotiations would be to prevent the UK from leaving the EU. Yesterday, the German Council of Economic experts said the best outcome of Brexit talks would be to avert the UK's departure all together.

"My preferred option would have been a different outcome to the British referendum," Steinmeier responded, adding no further comment.

Following a chuckle from the audience and a moment of silence, Johnson also responded to the question by filling in what Steinmeier "did not say."

"You will notice what Frank did not say - because he is a very wise man - that his preferred outcome would be another British referendum or an attempt to put the toothpaste back in the tube," Johnson said.

Earlier in the press conference, Steinmeier said the German government "regrets but respects" the UK's decision to leave the EU.

Court ruling fallout

Johnson also told reporters to "not read too much" into Thursday's court decision, telling them to ignore the "Sturm und Drang" occurring in parliament.

Following the High Court ruling, Conservative lawmaker Stephen Phillips resigned from parliament due to "growing and very significant policy differences with the current government." Phillips backed Britain leaving the EU, but said he wanted parliament to have more of a say. Parliamentary sovereignty was often one of the go-to arguments for Brexit campaigners during the referendum, with the Leave campaign's main slogan being "take back control."

London's High Court ruled on Thursday that Britain's parliament, not only its government, must approve the start of Brexit negotiations to leave the European Union. The decision could prove problematic for May's government, considering that a clear majority of UK parliamentarians - including roughly half of May's Conservatives - advocated remaining in the bloc.

The two foreign ministers also discussed the turbulent situation in Turkey, where the government has arrested several members of the opposition pro-Kurdish party, as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria.

rs/msh  (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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