Speaking to reporters in Berlin, the German chancellor said Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit will be “as close as possible but it is a difference” to what the UK has as a member.
Asked about whether Britain can secure a bespoke deal, Mrs Merkel hinted it would be possible but added: “In the end the outcome needs to be a fair balance.”
She said she was “not frustrated” by Britain’s reluctance to lay out its Brexit plans, but admitted she was “curious how Britain envisages this future partnership.”
Mrs Merkel did admit, however, that she still “deplores” Britain’s decision to quit the EU but would work closely with London over the coming months to negotiate a deal that benefits all parties.
“We very much look forward to Britain again setting out its ideas,” she said.
“We would like to initiate those negotiations because we are under a certain amount of time pressure but we also want be very diligent and very careful in working on this which means we will have frequent exchanges of views.”
Both leaders vowed to retain close security ties post-Brexit to combat growing threats to the continent while promising to keep close ties between London and Berlin.
Mrs May said: “As the threats we face grow and evolve…we must work together and use all the levers at our disposal to keep people across Europe safe.
“Today, as Merkel referred to, we reaffirmed our commitment to the Iran nuclear deal.
“We shared US concerns about Iran’s destabilising concerns in the Middle East.
“We also discussed the western Balkans conference, which I look forward to Mrs Merkel attending in July.
“Trade between nations generates jobs across nations…it is vital to people in both countries that our shared trade history continues.
“I want to ensure that UK companies have the maximum capacity to trade in Germany, and German businesses to do the same in the UK.
“We’re now ready to enter the next phase of negotiations.”
The meeting was the first time the two leaders have met since Mrs Merkel finally agreed a coalition deal to form a government, ending months of uncertainty about the future direction of the EU powerhouse.
However, the German Chancellor was forced to make major concessions to coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) which has undoubtedly weakened her leadership and her coalition partner Martin Schulz’s decision to step down as SPD leader has done little to help Mrs Merkel’s cause.
Theresa May is preparing to lay out the “security partnership” she wants to maintain between Britain and the EU when the two leaders speak to reporters.
Ahead of today’s meeting, A spokesperson for the German chancellor said “time is running out” for Britain to put forward its demands for the second round of Brexit talks as EU leaders put pressure on Theresa May to open negotiations.
These demands were echoed by former Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who demanded greater urgency from the UK and urged Mrs May to put forward “very concrete ideas” on the future EU-UK security relationship.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I have urged the negotiators on both sides to start negotiations on security issues already now. I am concerned that as far as we can see, security is not on the radar screen right now.
“But it’s very, very complicated.
“When it comes to trade, you have the WTO (World Trade Organisation) tariffs as a fallback. But when it comes to security, you don’t have any fallback option. That’s why you have to address these issues in due time.”
Today, Britain is seizing the opportunity to speak to the leader of the EU’s economic powerhouse following months of power struggles in Berlin as the PM plots to break the Brexit deadlock and appeal directly to EU member states.
The Prime Minister is due to head to Munich tomorrow to deliver a key speech on European defence and security after Brexit.
More to follow…