Merkel assumes May will stick to Brexit talks plan

The result of the British election has thrown the country's planned Brexit negotiations into disarrayMore

The result of the British election has thrown the country's planned Brexit negotiations into disarrayMore

With official talks due to start in 11 days, European Council President Donald Tusk seemed angry, tweeting: "We don't know when Brexit talks start". That would also make it improbable that Britain could secure the rapid free trade agreement it wants with the European Union after it leaves.

"We need a government that can act", Oettinger told the Deutschlandfunk radio station. With a weak negotiating partner, there's a danger the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides ...

And it was May who had warned that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker would discover she could be a "bloody hard woman" after details of a dinner attended by May, Juncker and the EU's top Brexit negotiator were leaked to a German newspaper earlier this year. France's European Union commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, said the timetable for leaving in 2019 was not optional but fixed in treaty law.

Steven Blockmans of the Center for European Policy Studies said that because of the current chaos, "it is questionable whether that period of time will be sufficient in order to strike a good deal".

Few Europeans voiced much sympathy for May.

May, who had called a snap election confident her Conservative Party would increase its majority and strengthen her hand in the Brexit talks, on Friday said she would lead a minority government backed by a small Northern Irish party.

German conservative Markus Ferber, an European Union lawmaker involved in discussions on access to European Union markets for Britain's financial sector, was scathing: "At the most untimely point", he said, "The British political system is in total disarray". On the timetable for Brexit negotiations, Dr Marshall said, "No business would walk into a negotiation without clear objectives, an agreed starting position, and a strong negotiating team".

Asked whether he expected to negotiate with Theresa May, he said it was purely a domestic matter, adding: "We want to start, the time is running, and instability, losing time, is not in your or our interest".

Most now appear to prefer that the bloc's second-biggest economy leave smoothly and quickly.

As news of British mayhem broke, Juncker was launching a new push for an expanded European Union defence project which Britain has long opposed, fearing a clash with the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance.

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

Most European capitals had believed May would be returned to government with some form of majority, and expected that to lead to at best hard talks, and at worst a breakdown of the negotiations possibly as early as this summer. "So that we will fulfil the promise of Brexit together and over the next five years build a country in which no one, and no community, is left behind". He hopes outline agreements on those issues by the end of this year can open the way for discussion on a future trade deal.

Mr Barnier has suggested he could meet Brexit Secretary David Davis - or his successor - in Brussels in the week after next, to start the talks.

"What is likely, at this stage, is that the Tories will seek a convergence on the main Brexit guidelines included in their political manifesto, which included a confirmation that the Government is willing to make a reasonable contribution to the European Union after Brexit, albeit with a warning that vast annual contributions to the European Union will end, an exit from the Single Market and a common willingness to secure rights for EU citizens in the United Kingdom and vice-versa".

Driving through a Hard Brexit agenda is not going to win her the cross party support in the House of Commons she will need to carry the day. "Maybe Britain will have to show greater flexibility in the negotiations".

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