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Opinion: No cherry picking for Britain

April 27, 2017

Angela Merkel was crystal clear: The Brexit negotiations between the EU and Britain will be tough. She gave no hint of concessions in her address to parliament today, says DW’s Nina Werkhäuser.

Großbritannien Brexit Symbolbild
Image: picture-alliance/empics/Y. Mok

Britain's vote in favor of Brexit may have saddened many German politicians, but the mourning period is over. Now, it's time to get down to the business of negotiations, which will pick up steam after the UK's general election on June 8. Both sides will have to prepare themselves as best they can for the wrangling over the conditions of the divorce, to be completed within a two-year time limit. The remaining 27 EU countries are holding a special summit on Saturday to agree on guidelines for the exit negotiations, and present a united front, as Merkel has underscored.

Anyone who listened to her remarks in parliament today already knows how things are going to go: There will be no cherry picking for Theresa May. Should the British prime minister be planning to step back from the UK's long-term financial commitments to the EU, she will have to think again. Merkel also let it be known that May will not be permitted to leave the hot-button issues until the very end of the negotiations. Merkel directly addressed any Britons who are convinced that they will enjoy the same rights after Brexit that they have now. That's an illusion, and a waste of time, the chancellor said. Her choice of words gives us a taste of how she is likely to approach the upcoming negotiations.

Nina Werkhäuser Kommentarbild App
Nina Werkhäuser is a DW correspondent in Berlin

The order in which the exit clauses are negotiated will be of the utmost significance. As this is new ground for the EU, it will want to prepare meticulously, and with the greatest possible consensus among the 27 remaining members. The UK, as a future "third-party state," can expect fairness, but not much indulgence. There will be a tough struggle over every single point. In Germany's case, for example, over the rights of the some 100,000 German citizens who live in the UK. It will be in the EU's interests to take a tough line in the negotiations, because it hopes they will have a deterrent effect on any potential copycats. And Merkel's appearance today in parliament will have sent a clear message to London: Expect these talks to be rock-hard.

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