GEOMETR.IT wsj.com 21.10.2016
BRUSSELS—British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday the U.K. will continue to be a strong partner in the European Union, as she sought to smooth relations at her first summit with her EU counterparts since becoming the prime minister.
As the U.K. establishes its negotiating position ahead of formal talks, which will start by the end of March, Mrs. May is seeking to establish goodwill from her European counterparts, some of whom face anti-EU movements at home and are under pressure not to make leaving the bloc look like an attractive option. Mrs. May has said she wants to restrict immigration from the EU while maximizing access to Europe’s trading market.
“The U.K. is leaving the EU, but we will continue to play a full role until we leave; and we’ll be a strong and dependable partner after we have left,” said Mrs. May, who became prime minister in July, weeks after the U.K. voted to leave the EU. The summit, which began Thursday and continues through Friday, will mainly focus on trade and the war in Syria, with Brexit expected to take a back seat.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mrs. May “gave an important message” by saying that the U.K. remains a full EU member with rights and obligations until the Brexit negotiations end.
“She said negotiations should be in the interest of the U.K. but also not hurt the EU,” Ms. Merkel said. “This will be a difficult path, but what she said is a good basis to work on together.”
EU leaders have said they wouldn’t agree to a deal that allows the U.K. to cherry pick what it wants from the bloc. Specifically, they have said the U.K. must agree to its rule that allows EU citizens to live and work in any member state if it wants access to the trading market.
Earlier Thursday, David Davis, the minister who is overseeing Britain’s exit from the EU, made clear the administration sees the bloc and the U.K.’s fates as intertwined. “If they do not achieve an open and barrier-free trading relationship, that will be harmful for many European countries and harmful for European financial stability,” he said. “Nobody wants that.”
—Nicholas Winning in London and Valentia Pop in Brussels contributed to this article.