The circumstances surrounding their first meeting on Wednesday evening are tricky, however, and building good relations damaged by the Brexit vote will be crucial. Awkwardly, the U.K. has yet to even start departure proceedings, leaving the relationship in limbo.
May has said that she wants to firm up the U.K.'s negotiating position over its possible future role with the EU before triggering the official procedure for leaving the bloc, known as Article 50.
But European leaders have urged the U.K. to get on with the process, saying that delay prolongs the economic and political uncertainty surrounding the Brexit, for all parties. Publicly too, EU leaders have vetoed any discussions over a post-EU relationship until Article 50 is triggered.
The U.K. has started distancing itself from the EU, however. May has told European Council president Donald Tusk that Britain is to relinquish its upcoming six-month presidency of the council in 2017, the Press Association reported Wednesday.
There have been differing attitudes towards the U.K. following the vote; some European leaders want "an example" to be made of the country, giving the U.K. no easy ride when it comes to negotiating a post-membership relationship to deter other countries from following suit.
Others, like Merkel, are more measured, calling for a more cooperative approach and saying there should be no EU "revenge" on Britain. After all, the U.K. has been a key trading partner in the EU and the bloc is mindful of its need to maintain its links to the U.K.'s robust consumer market.
With official break-up negotiations yet to even begin, Nickel noted that there was the "potential for tensions further down the line" despite the cordial atmosphere expected between May and Merkel tonight.
"Merkel is aware that she needs to step into the 'strong leader of Europe' position again and that she needs to incorporate a more hawkish position like France to ensure that the single market survives. Yes, the trade relationship with the U.K. is important to Germany but its relationship with the rest of the EU and the need to keep the bloc together outweighs that," Nickel said.