European Union leaders are preparing for the UK’s exit from the bloc. On Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned talks would be difficult and urged London to clarify what kind of relationship it wanted.
Merkel’s comments came on the day that Theresa May was confirmed as the UK’s next prime minister.
Speaking at an annual diplomatic reception near Berlin, Merkel stressed if Britain wanted access to the single market it must accept EU freedoms.
“From a German perspective I can only underline that Great Britain is an important partner and we will remain closely connected to Great Britain in the future,” said Chancellor Merkel. “But of course the EU and the remaining 27 member states also have to protect their interests. For example, whoever would like to have free access to the European internal market will also have to accept all basic freedoms in return, including the free movement of people.”
Merkel went on to add that the rejection of EU membership by the people of Britain should be an impetus for the EU to make some changes.
“We need to make Europe more competitive, strengthen research and innovation in promising economic sectors not only to avoid falling behind, but also to set European standards.”
“We need structural reforms, we need solid finances,” Merkel said.
In Paris French President Francois Hollande took the opportunity during a visit by President Jacob Zuma to reassure countries outside the bloc that it will be business as usual .
“Brexit will effect no consequences on relations between the European Union and South Africa.”
However President Zuma said one consequence would be a positive one with the strengthening of ties.
“The so-called Brexit holds implications well beyond the borders of the UK and the member states of the EU. However, we will further reinforce our joint commitment to strengthening cooperation on regional and global peace and security as well as global governance issues,” said President Zuma
Britain has not yet activated the Article 50 clause in the European treaty that triggers the process for its departure from the bloc. It is expected to push for access to the EU’s single market but many British politicians would also like to control immigration from the EU.