Merkel says European Union ready to start Brexit negotiations

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Michel Barnier, whose department within the European Commission has spent months preparing for Brexit, said: "I can't negotiate with myself".

"Looks like it was the Brexit election after all". While May campaigned to remove the United Kingdom from the single market so she could regain control of immigration and law-making, she will now struggle to find majority support for that stance in the new House of Commons.

In Brussels on Wednesday Barnier instead met Olly Robbins, a senior official in Davis's ministry, and Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow to discuss arrangements for the talks following the election shock.

During the campaign, possibly in electioneering mode, May, the former Home Secretary that voted to remain in the European Union in last June's referendum, claimed "no deal would be better than a bad deal" with the 27 other member states.

Having called an election to build a big parliamentary majority to back her Brexit plans, prime minister Theresa May failed in the 8 June election, losing seats and emerging deeply wounded. A second election this year is also now a possibility, applying a further squeeze and increasing the chance that the split will prove disorderly. The leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, made clear during the campaign that he would respect the referendum result, and E.U. leaders have always questioned his commitment to the European project.

She added that Britain will still remain in Europe after Brexit, and that she wanted the country to remain a good partner.

There is a common acceptance across the political spectrum, across the EU institutions and across European capitals that Brexit is now inevitable and a broad sense that it needs to be implemented to remove uncertainty on both sides.

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Roberto Gualtieri, an Italian Socialist who leads his group on Brexit, said: "The previous government did not show a full awareness of what the negotiation is going to be", Gualtieri said. "One mess risks following another". Amid the uncertainty, they're selling off the British currency as business leaders warn that the lack of clarity could hinder investments.

Some EU officials had voiced hope that a stronger majority for May could allow her to make more concessions in the negotiations.

Graham Brady, the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee and one of the party's key power-brokers, insisted that there was no appetite among MPs for an immediate leadership challenge which could see them plunged into another general election.

The other 27 governments are particularly concerned that a breakdown in negotiations could lead to Britain ceasing to be a member on March 30, 2019, as laid out in Article 50 of the European Union treaty, without negotiating the kind of divorce terms that would avoid a chaotic legal limbo for people and businesses.

"We stand ready", said Mr Oettinger. The DUP wants a "comprehensive free trade and customs agreement", and a "frictionless border" with the Irish Republic. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke, who rebelled against May over Brexit, already told the BBC that a "deeper debate" is needed in Parliament.

It appears May and her party will have to accept a more sensible, considered, consensual approach on Brexit will be needed.

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