Major blow for Theresa May as Angela Merkel rejects key part of Article 50 letter
Theresa May has been dealt a major blow just hours after triggering Article 50 as Angela Merkel rejected her demand for immediate talks on Britain's future relationship with the EU.
The German Chancellor said the Brexit negotiations "must first clarify how we will disentangle our inter-linked relationship".
Her comments came shortly after Mrs May's Article 50 letter was delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels.
In it, the Prime Minister said: "We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.
"If, however, we leave the European Union without an agreement the default position is that we would have to trade on World Trade Organisation terms."
But in an outright rejection of Mrs May's approach, Ms Merkel said: "The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our inter-linked relationship, and only when this is dealt with can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship."
The slapdown came as Mrs May was also slammed for hinting in her letter that Britain could withdraw security co-operation with the EU if it does not get a trade deal.
Mrs May said: "In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.
"In this kind of scenario, both the United Kingdom and the European Union would of course cope with the change, but it is not the outcome that either side should seek. We must therefore work hard to avoid that outcome."
But Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "It is shameful that Theresa May has threatened to withdraw security co-operation from our closest neighbours and allies.
"With growing terrorist threats from around the world, it is imperative that we work together with European allies for our mutual security.
"She is prepared to put the safety of British and European citizens on the line just so she can deliver her hard Brexit."