Brexit

Theresa May seeks help from Merkel and Macron ahead of critical Brexit summit

Key Points
  • U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May traveled to Berlin and Paris Tuesday for talks with the German and French leaders in a bid to secure backing for a second delay to Brexit.
  • The talks come before EU leaders meet in Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency summit dedicated to Brexit.
  • At the EU Council meeting, the remaining 27 EU leaders will have to decide whether or not to grant the U.K. more time before it leaves the bloc.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (C) looks on as (L-R) Netherlands' Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Emmanuel Macron greet each other at the European Council during the start of the two day EU summit on December 13, 2018.
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May traveled to Berlin and Paris Tuesday for talks with the German and French leaders in a bid to secure backing for a second delay to Brexit.

The talks come before EU leaders meet in Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency summit dedicated to Brexit. At the EU Council meeting, the remaining 27 EU leaders will have to decide whether or not to grant the U.K. more time before it leaves the bloc — which was due to take place on Friday.

The country was originally meant to leave the EU on March 29 but was granted more time as U.K. lawmakers rejected May's withdrawal agreement on three separate occasions. It has now asked for another extension of the Brexit deadline, to June 30.

In the meantime, a Brexit deal has still not been approved by British politicians, although they have also rejected the option of leaving the EU without a deal. Several alternative Brexit proposals have failed to find a clear majority of support.

Therefore the U.K.'s fate is now largely in the hands of its European neighbors and the U.K. will have to justify asking for more time when no consensus appears forthcoming.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is willing to grant the U.K. more time. No details of May's meeting with Merkel were revealed Tuesday but a statement noted that that the leaders "agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain's orderly withdrawal from the European Union."

French President Emmanuel Macron might be harder to win round when May meets him in Paris Tuesday evening. He has previously insisted that Britain must present a "credible plan" to justify an extension. He is also reportedly keen to attach strict conditions to granting one.

"My take on this stance by Macron is that it's mainly postering," Silvia Dall'Angelo, senior economist at Hermes Investment Management, told CNBC Tuesday. "It's in everybody's interest to get to a deal with the U.K."

"A no-deal Brexit would be mainly a problem for the U.K. but it would have negative spill-overs for the euro zone as well. At the end of the day, the EU leaders including Macron will concede an extension but of course there will be conditions attached to it," she told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe."

May has been holding cross-party talks with opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to find a compromise over Brexit. She can also use the talks as a way to demonstrate to EU leaders that she is trying to find a way out of the U.K.'s political impasse, according to Mujtaba Rahman at Eurasia Group.

"May needs to keep Labour at the table to convince all 27 EU leaders at their emergency summit on Wednesday that the talks are making real progress, in order to win a further extension to the Article 50 process beyond Friday," he said in a note Monday. "That is why May allies are floating the idea of a 'customs arrangement' being the outcome of the negotiations."

Germany's EU minister Michael Roth said Tuesday that "unfortunately conditions set by EU leaders for a Brexit extension had not been met" and noted that May's talks with the opposition had "begun too late and have yet to produce results," Reuters reported. He said he could not exclude the possibility of a disorderly Brexit.

But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he expected a strong view at the EU summit that countries need to work together to avoid a hard Brexit, according to Reuters, but said a no-deal was a possibility.

Ireland, which is one of the largest trading partners and where a fragile peace is maintained between Northern Ireland and the Republic, has the most to lose from a hard Brexit.

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