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Britain's May confirms Brexit talks 'as planned' despite uncertainties

(Xinhua)    17:15, June 12, 2017

BRITAIN-LONDON-GENERAL ELECTION-THERESA MAY

British Prime Minister Theresa May gives a speech after a 15-minute audience at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth in London, Britain on June 9, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Friday afternoon she will form a Westminster government, helped by members of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). (Xinhua/Han Yan)

LONDON, June 12 -- British Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that Britain is ready to start Brexit negotiations "as planned" on June 19, as European Union(EU) leaders expressed concerns after her losses in the parliamentary elections.

In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkelon Saturday, May said Britain "is looking for a reciprocal agreement on the rights of EU citizens and British citizens abroad at an early stage."

The Conservative Party led by May lost its majority in Thursday's parliamentary elections, which observers said suggested voters' concerns about her "hard Brexit" approach of leaving the EU's single market and imposing restrictions on immigration.

With 318 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives remain the biggest single winner, but still fall behind securing the 326-mark of seats for a majority as they had before the snap election. The Labour Party, the main opposition, won 261 seats.

May called the early election in April when opinion polls suggested she was set for a sweeping win which would give her a strong mandate to start Brexit talks with the EU.

However, the election resulted in a hung parliament and unprecedented uncertainties regarding the Brexit negotiations that are supposed to wrap up by the end of March 2019.

Merkel congratulated May on her re-election in a phone conversation on Saturday. During a visit to Mexico a day earlier, the German chancellor said she did not expect any significant delay in the talks between Britain and the EU.

"We are ready to negotiate and are prepared ... We want to negotiate quickly, we want to negotiate in the agreed time frame," Merkel said.

European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday urged that Brussels and London should press ahead with the Brexit talks, in a congratulatory letter on May's re-election.

"Our shared responsibility and urgent task now is to conduct the negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in the best possible spirit, securing the least disruptive outcome for our citizens, businesses and countries after March 2019," Tusk said.

"The time frame set by Article 50 of the Treaty leaves us with no time to lose. I am fully committed to maintaining regular and close contact at our level to facilitate the work of our negotiators," he added.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also said earlier on Friday in Prague that the EU "can open negotiation tomorrow morning at 09:30 (0730 GMT)."

"We are waiting for visitors coming from London. I hope that we will not experience a further delay in the conclusion of these negotiations," Juncker said.

"First, we have to agree on the divorce and exit modalities and then we have to envisage the architecture of our future relations. I do hope that the result of the elections will have no major impact on the negotiations we are desperately waiting for," he said.

May reappointed most of her ministers on Sunday, including the treasury chief, foreign secretary, defense secretary and home secretary, trying to untie her Conservatives as the loss in the election weakens her position.

She has confirmed that her party is seeking a deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to gain support for her minority government on key votes in the parliament.

With the DUP's 10 seats, the alliance will secure a majority in the parliament.

The Conservatives and the DUP, "having enjoyed a strong relationship over many years," will work together, May said. She is expected to meet DUP leader Arlene Foster on Tuesday on details of the political arrangement.

"The question is now whether a coalition government will make Britain a more constructive negotiating partner, perhaps moving away from the 'hard Brexit' posturing of the past months, which does not seem to be the case," said Joris Larik, a senior researcher at The Hague Institute for Global Justice.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

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