May to visit Berlin, Paris in first foreign visit as PM

LONDON: Theresa May will visit Berlin on Wednesday in her first foreign visit as Britain’s new prime minister for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the UK’s preparations to leave the EU, said Downing Street.

She will then head for Paris on Thursday for similar talks with French President Francois Hollande and for discussions on counter-terrorism cooperation following the Nice truck attack, a spokeswoman said Monday.

They are May’s first foreign visits since she became prime minister in the wake of Brexit referendum. New British prime ministers normally make early visits to establish personal links with key European leaders but this week’s trip will be highly charged by the referendum outcome and the need to forge a new relationship between Britain and the continent’s other major powers.

“This will be an opportunity to discuss the bilateral relationship, cooperation on a range of global challenges and of course how the UK and Germany can work together as the UK prepares to leave the EU,” the spokeswoman said and added, “The talks are likely to cover similar issues as those in Berlin as well as Thursday’s attack in Nice and the counter-terrorism cooperation.”

Sources from Élysée Palace said that May would be due in Paris on Thursday, with three subjects on the agenda – external security, battle against terror and implementing Brexit – and the importance of Franco-British relations.

May, who had spent six years as former PM Cameron’s interior minister, became leader of the governing centre-right Conservative Party following a short contest, before taking office.

Top Brexit campaigner and former mayor of London Boris Johnson, her surprise choice as new foreign minister, was in Brussels on Monday for talks with his EU counterparts.

He said that Britain would continue to play a leading role in Europe. “We have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the European Union but we are not going to abandon our leading role in European participation,” Johnson said.

EU leaders insist Britain’s negotiations for its departure from the bloc can only start once London invokes Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, setting a two-year countdown on the divorce.


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