Chancellor Merkel made the comments throughout her weekly podcast, where she said that the UK leaving the European Union presented a “major change” the EU. Throughout her speech, the Chancellor stressed the economic significance of the UK:
“Yes, an economically important and strong country is leaving the European Union and we are losing something. Britain has always been strong economically. Britain is a country that focuses on science, research and innovation. I therefore hope that partnership and future cooperation will remain.”
Although Mrs Merkel pointed to the continued strength of the bloc, she pointed to the need to cooperate on issues concerning foreign policy and defence:
“One thing remains clear: we will continue to work very closely together in foreign, security and defence policy.”
Her words are being viewed as a promising change in dialogue for the UK. Mrs Merkel’s conciliatory remarks come in stark contrast to the hard line being taken by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier on the post-Brexit security relationship with Brussels.
Highlighting common foreign policy positions such as the reaction to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury and stance on the Iran nuclear agreement, Mrs Merkel added: “And we need each other as security partners for the protection of external borders and also for many missions in Africa.
The European Commission was accused last week of putting “obstacles” in the way of measures to allow law enforcement agencies to continue co-operating after Brexit.
British Prime Minister Theresa May warned EU leaders at a recent summit in Brussels that unless there was flexibility in the negotiations then their citizens would be less safe.
Mrs May used last week’s summit in Brussels to urge EU leaders to consider “the safety of your citizens and mine” and change the bloc’s negotiating stance in order to allow UK involvement in key law enforcement initiatives.
Over a working dinner on Thursday night, Mrs May warned, if the UK was blocked from involvement in key initiatives, that “we would no longer be able to share real-time alerts for wanted persons, including serious criminals”.
“Our collective ability to map terrorist networks across Europe and bring those responsible to justice would be reduced,” the prime minister added.
“That is not what I want and I do not believe it is what you want either.”
It is hoped that Mrs Merkel’s strong defence of the strategic importance of Britain will be seen as a strong signal that a deal can be reached with the UK in this critical area.
With Europe’s largest military budget, and an industrial base to match, Britain is arguably the strongest military power within the EU. Clearly understanding the importance of the island power, Mrs Merkel has consistently argued that the EU must continue to align with the UK on matters of defence. It is now up to the EU to heed her advice.