On Wednesday, in her first foreign trip as UK Prime Minister, Theresa May met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Britain’s actions following the country’s decision to leave the EU. Both leaders agreed that May needs time to prepare for the negotiations involved in the UK’s exit, and therefore she should delay in invoking Article 50 which would begin these proceedings. This accounts for the Prime Minister’s earlier comments, in which she stated that the UK would not ask to leave the EU before the end of 2016. Merkel also believed that it was important for the UK to have clear objectives before beginning negotiations.

However, other EU countries have expressed that they would prefer that negotiations began as soon as possible.

Pressure from within.

French President Francois Hollande, who faces a looming presidential election and pressure from the far-right Eurosceptic National Front, has instead argued ‘the sooner the better’. He fears that lack of clarity over the UK’s position may fuel further discontent with the EU, perhaps most notably from within his own country. Nevertheless, Hollande has agreed to keep the Sangatte Protocol in place, which establishes border controls between France and the UK. Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has also called for the exiting process to begin as soon as possible, as he put forward the case for the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland remaining a ‘soft’ one.

No compromise over movement.

However Merkel has maintained that Britain cannot continue to enjoy access to the single market whilst at the same time restricting freedom of movement into the UK, a move that will let down many in the UK who voted to leave the EU. Hollande agrees with Merkel on this point, as they both also stated that negotiations, formal or otherwise, cannot begin until Britain has invoked Article 50.

Nevertheless, May has said that the referendum result was a clear message that some controls had to be introduced on movement from EU countries into the UK.

Britain’s relationship with the EU represents four decades of political and economic integration; this will take time to undo. Nina Schick of NGO Open Europe, argues that ‘Paris and Berlin are quite divided on what the future of the EU should be’. Indeed, so are the British people, 48.1% of whom voted to stay in the union which Britain has been a part of since 1973.