Theresa May holding talks with Angela Merkel in Berlin
Theresa May is holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she seeks to make progress on negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU. The meeting, at Berlin’s Chancellery, is likely to be dominated by Brexit and discussions over a “transition” period.
The UK is under pressure to give more details about the relationship it wants with the EU after its March 2019 exit. In a speech scheduled for Saturday, she will set out the “security partnership” she envisages with European partners.
Mrs May, whose ministers are setting out what has been dubbed “the road to Brexit” in a series of speeches, will speak at the annual Munich Security Conference, which plays host to numerous world leaders, foreign ministers and defence representatives.
On the first day of the event, the heads of the three largest European intelligence agencies have made an unprecedented joint appearance to emphasise the necessity of international co-operation.
After holding talks, the head of Britain’s MI6, Alex Younger, and his German and French counterparts issued a statement committing themselves to cross-border information sharing after Brexit to tackle international terrorism, illegal migration, nuclear proliferation and cyber attacks.
“Modern threats require a modern response. Any failure to do so would lead to even greater risk,” they said.
Their move stems from warnings from the former head of GCHQ that the UK could suffer if it does not take part in the wider European defence plan post-Brexit.
Robert Hannigan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that bilateral and multilateral collaboration was vital, questioning whether it was possible for a “medium-sized country to compete in the modern market and export outside the EU” without sharing research and development costs.
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attempted to appeal to Remain supporters, urging people to unite behind his vision of a “liberal Brexit”.
The devolution of powers, workers’ rights and trade are also expected to be covered by other ministers.
May’s trip to Berlin comes as the UK and the EU attempt to agree details of the temporary “transition” period that will come immediately after Brexit day and is intended to smooth the path to the permanent post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU.
Speaking after the last round of talks, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said “substantial” disagreements remained and he had “some problems understanding the UK’s position”.
The British government, meanwhile, has offered to extend guarantees on EU citizens’ rights after Brexit to the 20,000 Norwegian, Icelandic and Liechtensteinian nationals living in the UK.
Citizens from the three countries – all members of the European Economic Area – living in the UK for the past five years will be able to apply for settled status on the same basis as nationals from the other 27 EU member states.
This would grant them permanent residency and largely the same access as now to healthcare, pensions and other benefits.
The UK hopes the offer will be reciprocated and will give similar assurances to the 15,000 British expats in Norway, the 800 in Iceland and 60 in Liechtenstein.