There was a cold front in Berlin today as Theresa May took to the stage for a joint press conference with Angela Merkel. The Prime Minister is in Germany to discuss post-Brexit security – with a speech scheduled tomorrow in Munich – but all anyone wanted to talk about today was Merkel’s Davos joke. The German chancellor is said to have regaled hacks at the meeting of the global elite with an anecdote about May having no idea what she wants from Brexit.
Asked in the Q&A today whether she understood Merkel’s frustration that she is still unable to say what Britain wants, May insisted the government had a clear position – but added that ‘this isn’t just a one-way street’. For her part, Merkel appeared none-the-wiser as to May’s Brexit wish list. She insisted that she was ‘not frustrated at all – just curious’. That curiosity shows no signs of having been sated today. Despite numerous questions from hacks trying to pin the pair down on details of what Brexit would mean for the two countries, no-one left any the wiser.
There was, however, a carrot dangled by May. The Prime Minister said she would be saying something in the coming weeks in relation to Britain’s economic partnership. This is expected to form the basis of May’s final speech in No 10’s grand ‘Roadmap to Brexit’. A Cabinet away day – scheduled for next Thursday – is where the government’s position will be thrashed out. As James writes in this week’s magazine, whatever position the Cabinet do manage to unite on, there’s no guarantee that the EU will accept it. But it is only through negotiation that they will find this out. These conversations with Brussels can only start once May has finished negotiating with her own side. For everyone’s sake, it’s time for May to satisfy Merkel’s curiosity.