BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany wants friendly ties with Britain but won’t drop its insistence that London can only enjoy full access to the European Union’s internal market if it allows free immigration of EU citizens.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who hasn’t yet formally triggered EU exit talks, appears prepared to prioritize immigration controls.

Merkel argues that making concessions on free labor movement would create a dangerous free-for-all in the EU. She said Saturday that, although Britain is dear to Europe and she regrets its decision to leave the bloc, “we cannot work toward ultimately putting into question the whole European Union.”

Merkel said: “I will always weigh things in Britain’s favor, but always with the thought that we 27 member states want to preserve our Europe.”