September 8, 2018 / 4:58 PM / 2 months ago

Germany has no interest in a 'hard' Brexit - foreign minister

FILE PHOTO: Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends a European Union Foreign Ministers informal meeting (Gymnich) in Vienna, Austria, August 30, 2018 REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has no interest in a ‘hard’ Brexit but such a scenario cannot be ruled out, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Saturday.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, yet little is clear. There is, so far, no full exit deal, rivals to Prime Minister Theresa May are circling and some MPs are pushing for a second referendum.

“We have no interest in it coming to a hard Brexit,” Maas told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview, using the term widely used to mean Britain distancing itself from the EU by leaving the single market and the customs union.

“But that is not to be ruled out,” he added. “We also don’t want it to come to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May recently outlined proposals on economic and trade policy in a white paper, but lawmakers in her Conservative Party who want a clean break from the EU have criticised the plan, saying it offered a Brexit in name only.

If the world’s fifth largest economy leaves without a detailed agreement - a ‘no deal’ scenario - financial markets fear a chaotic divorce that would disrupt trade flows across Europe.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in evidence published on Friday that he was willing to consider new ways to solve the Irish border issue, the toughest of the remaining issues in Britain’s exit negotiation.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was doing all it could to ensure the EU and Britain reach a divorce deal, but she warned success was not guaranteed.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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