February 16, 2018 / 1:27 AM / 7 months ago

UK PM May heads to Berlin to face tough German line on Brexit

LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May travels to Berlin on Friday to meet German leader Angela Merkel, hoping to overcome near-deadlock in her attempts to negotiate a Brexit deal with the European Union.

Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks outside Stormont House, in Belfast, Northern Ireland February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

German officials say they are frustrated with Britain’s lack of clarity about what it wants after the split, including what new customs regime it wants and how closely it will stay aligned to the EU’s rules for goods and services.

Earlier this week, Germany called on Britain to offer more “concrete” plans.

While Britain’s politicians are consumed by Brexit, Germany is more preoccupied by the struggle to form the new government. Merkel is struggling to coax the Social Democrats to join her conservatives in a renewed “grand coalition”.

German officials have said there is no reason to expect Berlin to change its stance on Brexit when a new coalition government is finally formed.

    The future of the euro zone and the governance reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron are seen as more pressing items for Germany than Brexit. May will be the third European prime minister Merkel receives on Friday.

    German officials believe that a failure to reach a deal with London before Britain’s formal departure from the EU in March 2019 will have far more serious consequences for Britain than for the rest of the bloc.

Meanwhile, May’s Conservative government remains split over what sort of relationship Britain should have with the EU.

Eurosceptics in her party, such as her foreign minister Boris Johnson, are putting pressure on May to move Britain away from EU rules. Others, including finance minister Philip Hammond, favour as little disruption as possible.

May is under growing pressure to agree a transition deal with the EU by the end of next month to reassure businesses worried that Britain could leave the bloc without a deal next year.

After Berlin, May will travel to a security conference in Munich on Saturday where she will give a speech on future security cooperation between Britain and the EU.

The British government, which has the largest defence budget among EU countries, hopes that offering to keep some of its security arrangements with the bloc will help it win concessions on future trading relations.

A Downing Street source said May would discuss security issues with Merkel on Friday.

Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke; editing by Andrew Roche

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