September 24, 2018 / 3:20 PM / 3 months ago

We hope to keep Britain close after Brexit - Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement at the CDU headquarters in Berlin, Germany, September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany wants a Brexit deal to keep Britain as close to the European Union as possible, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.

Speaking to students in Hanover, Germany, Merkel said there was scope for Britain to pay to continue to participate in individual EU programmes, such as the Erasmus student exchange scheme, but crucial questions like the Ireland-Northern Ireland border remained complicated.

“We want as few disadvantages (from Brexit) as possible,” she said. “We would be happy, and it would be possible, if Britain said it wanted to pay into Erasmus, and also we want ways of making goods transport as uncomplicated as possible.”

But that did not mean checks on goods could be dispensed with, she said, in an apparent restatement of the EU’s position that the Irish border can only be open if Northern Ireland remains within the EU’s regulatory orbit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she could not agree to any deal with the EU which treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom.

“It is very important that we do this (Brexit) in friendship,” Merkel said. “We want the relationship to be as friendly and as close as possible, and as close as the British want it to be.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Janet Lawrence

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