BRUSSELS (AP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she hopes for a “good agreement” after Brexit talks in which 27 EU countries will listen carefully to what Britain wants but also defend their own interests.
Britain on Monday finally opened negotiations with other European Union (EU) nations about leaving the bloc.
Merkel said Monday, “I think it is premature to speculate on the first day of the negotiations how they will end.”
She added, “I hope that we will reach a good agreement. That will be in our mutual interest, but we 27 will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully together.”
Merkel spoke after meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who also stressed the 27 EU countries’ unity. He noted the EU wants to discuss divorce terms before moving on to the shape of its future relations with Britain. He said he views the talks with “informed optimism”.
A top German business lobby is urging negotiators for Britain and the EU to quickly come to an agreement over how Britain’s departure from the EU will affect cross-border trade — and avoid a “hard Brexit”.
The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, known by its German initials VDMA, says that that goal of the two-year negotiating process is “damage limitation” because Brexit won’t benefit either side.
VDMA managing director Thilo Brodtmann said in a statement that “the EU and Great Britain must absolutely avoid being left without an agreement in two years”.
The association represents 3,200 businesses with a million employees in Germany making industrial machinery. Such firms sold 7.3 billion euros ($8.2 billion) worth of goods to customers in Britain last year, their fourth-biggest market.
UK negotiator David Davis says that Britain has gone into Brexit negotiations looking for a “positive and constructive tone” to deal with the myriad issues dividing both sides.
Reflecting on Britain’s longtime EU membership, Davis says that “there is more that unites us than divides us” despite the June 23, 2016 referendum in which Britain decided to break away from the 27 other member nations.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the negotiations which should lead to a breakup by March 2019 “must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit — first for citizens, but also for the beneficiaries of the EU policies and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland”.
The head of the biggest group in the European Parliament says that what Britain wants out of the Brexit talks is a mystery as negotiations get underway.
European People’s Party caucus leader Manfred Weber told German radio station Bayern 2 Monday, “Our big problem is that we have no picture, no idea at all what the British want.”