Theresa May has played down suggestions that German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds the key to the kind of Brexit that Britain can expect to get.
As leader of the European Union’s most populous and economically powerful country, Mrs Merkel is widely viewed as the strongest influence on the EU’s approach to Brexit and her comments are scrutinised closely for clues to her attitude.
Brexit supporters argue that she will want a liberal trade regime to preserve one of Germany’s largest export markets for luxury products such as cars, while others warn that Berlin’s priority will be to send a signal to other EU states that quitting the 28-nation bloc has consequences.
Earlier Mrs Merkel said that the UK would not be allowed to “cherry pick” from the four freedoms – including freedom of movement – required as a condition of single market membership.
Speaking to a UK newspaper, Mrs May insisted it was important to deal with all 27 of the other EU states and not simply focus on Germany.
She acknowledged that the two-year negotiation – which MPs voted this week should be triggered by the end of March – will not be “easy”, and acknowledged that the remaining EU countries do not want to see a repeat of the 23 June Leave vote in other member states.