21 Jul 2016

UK won't start Brexit negotiations this year - May

9:41 am on 21 July 2016

The UK will not start official negotiations on leaving the European Union this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May says.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at left, with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at left, with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: AFP

Speaking after talks in Berlin, Mrs May said securing a "sensible and orderly departure" from the EU would take time but insisted the UK would not "walk away" from Europe and wanted to retain the closest economic links.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the two sides desired to get the best result for Britain, but urged more clarity on timing.

At a joint press conference, Mrs May said the UK was in no rush to trigger the two year process of leaving the EU - telling reporters that although "this would not please everyone" it was right to hold off until the UK's "objectives were clear".

The process of preparing the UK for Brexit would require "serious and detailed work" but, irrespective of this, she said the UK was determined to maintain strong trading, economic and security links with Germany, which she described as "a vital partner and special friend".

"Of course, the nature of our relationship is going to change as the UK leaves the EU, but we both want to maintain the closest possible economic relationship between our countries and I believe that is what German and British businesses want too," she said.

"So it's good that we start from such a strong foundation and a position where both our countries believe in liberal markets and free trade and these should be the principles that guide us in the discussions ahead."

Asked how they had got on at their first meeting, in which Mrs May said they were two women and leaders "who just wanted to get on with the job and deliver the best possible results for the people of the UK and Germany".

Mrs Merkel said she did expect there to be any formal negotiations at this stage and it was "understandable" the UK needed a period of time to prepare.

But she said there was a need for a "certain timeline" with regard to Britain's exit and hoped the UK would begin to "define its principles" with regard to the formal Article 50 process.

"We have to listen to what Britain wants and find what the right answer is," she said. "Britain does not want an impasse, Germany does not want an impasse and the EU does not want an impasse".