Germany's Angela Merkel comments about the UK's Brexit stance show the need for Britain to have the strongest possible hand in negotiations, said Prime Minister Theresa May. The PM told a rally in Leeds that 27 EU countries were lining up to oppose Britain while her opponents were trying to disrupt Brexit talks.
Germany's chancellor said some Britons had illusions trade talks could take place alongside Brexit negotiations. Labour says the Tories have a rigid and reckless approach to Brexit talks. The UK is due to leave the EU by March 2019, once formal negotiations have been completed.
The British government has repeatedly said it wants the terms of the separation - including demands for any exit fee - to be dealt with at the same time as a new trading relationship is negotiated.
But EU leaders have resisted this, and on Thursday Mrs. Merkel told German MPs it would be a waste of time to maintain illusions that the two sets of negotiations could be held simultaneously. She also said the UK could not maintain the rights it has as an EU member.
All 27 EU countries and the EU institutions agree about that, she told the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament.
Speaking on a campaign visit to Leeds, Mrs May repeated her claim that an increased Conservative majority was needed to strengthen her Brexit negotiating hand.
We've seen from Chancellor Merkel today, we've heard her comments today. We've seen that actually there will be times when these negotiations are going to get tough.
Yet our opponents are already trying to disrupt them at the same time as 27 other European countries are lining up to oppose us. And that can only mean one thing. It will mean uncertainty. It will mean the risk.
She urged party supporters not to be complacent and said the polls - which indicate a sizeable Conservative lead - could be wrong, as they had been in 2015. Every single vote counts, she said.
She urged Labour supporters to vote in the national interest to strengthen my hand when I negotiate with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of Europe in the months ahead”.
The Conservatives are hoping to take seats from Labour on 8 June in areas which voted to leave the EU, including the Midlands, the north-east and north-west of England and across Wales.
While Leeds voted narrowly to remain in the EU, the wider Yorkshire and Humber region as a whole backed Brexit.
Labour set out its approach to Brexit on Tuesday, saying it would scrap Mrs May's plans and unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU residents before talks start. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour wanted a deal which prioritizes jobs and workers' rights.