Did Angela Merkel approve Theresa May's Brexit plan in advance?

When Theresa May presented her government summary for Brexit at Chequers last Friday, she is reported to have told her cabinet ministers: "No, that's not possible, because I've already cleared it [the existing text] with Mrs. Merkel," according to the right-leaning Spectator political magazine.

Allegations of German influence over the British exit from the European Union have been made by politicians wanting a complete break with Europe, and in parts of the British media.

Chancellor Merkel's position on Brexit has been consistent: negotiations are a matter for EU officials, not individual member states.

The two leaders have met twice since July 5.

One day before presenting a summary of her Brexit proposals to her government ministers, May went to Berlin to meet the Chancellor.

On Monday, July 10, Merkel attended the Balkans summit in London, followed by a reception in the gardens of St James's Palace with May.

An apparently high level of sensitivity was raised by journalists including the UK's Times newspaper's Patrick Wintour who wrote: "At Balkans summit Angela Merkel raised her eyebrows and gave out a thin smile when told by Theresa May she was not to answer questions from the British press, and only take a solitary question from a German reporter. One summit issue was media freedom in the Balkans."

Speaking after the Balkans meeting at a press conference alongside May, Merkel said the Brexit process had been advanced: "With Britain putting forward a white paper, this has come a whole step forward, and we as 27 ... will form a position and give a joint response. But it's good that the proposals are on the table — that much I can say already without going into details," Merkel said.

"We will remain Europeans even if we're not in the same European Union," Merkel said.

UK domestic drama

The political drama playing out in Britain has intensified in the last week with the resignations of government ministers and others, including Brexit minister David Davis and foreign minister Boris Johnson.

May was quoted in one of the pro-Brexit newspapers, The Sun, after her office denied the Spectator's claims of clearance for the Brexit blueprint from Merkel.

"For the first time in decades we will have control of our borders," May told The Sun on Wednesday. "Only our Brexit deal for Britain truly respects the will of the British people. It is the Brexit this country demanded. And, as Prime Minister, it is the Brexit I am determined to deliver."

On Thursday, the government proposal or White Paper was due to be published, setting out the terms for Britain's exit from the EU and its future relations with the bloc after March 2019.

No cherry-picking

EU negotiators, and German politicians commenting on the process, have kept to the same line: "that the EU internal market is indivisible and there can't be any cherry-picking," as Florian Hahn, a Christian Social Union (CSU) lawmaker in Bavaria said on Monday.

For the Social Democrats (SDP), Merkel's coalition partner, parliamentarian Achim Post said there was still more work to be done before the UK reached a deal: "We're still far removed from a breakthrough in talks with the EU," Post said.

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