No trade talk with Britain until Brexit is over, European leaders say

Namrata Tripathi
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It appears that the European leaders have no intention of letting Britain get away easily during the Brexit negotiations. French President Francois Hollande on Thursday (March 30) echoed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's take and told British Prime Minister Theresa May that it is important to first deal with how Britain will leave the European Union (EU), before any talks of Britain's future relations with the EU can be carried out.

Hollande, during a phone call with May, said the negotiations of Britain's exit from the EU must be held in a "clear and constructive manner, so as to lift uncertainties and to fully respect the rules and interests of the 27-member European Union."

The outgoing French president stood firm with Merkel and the European Parliament who are seeking to ban any trade talks between the UK and the EU, until the Brexit process is over.

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After May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday (March 29), Britain now has two years to negotiate the terms and separate itself from the EU. However, the British PM, along with discussing Brexit negotiations, also wants to hold talks about the UK's future trading relationship with the EU within the two-year period. 

Hollande's office on Thursday released a statement from the French president about his take on the Brexit negotiations.

"The president indicated that the talks must at first be about the terms of withdrawal, dealing especially with citizens' rights and obligations, resulting from the commitments made by the United Kingdom."

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"On the basis of the progress made, we could open discussions on the framework of future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union," the statement said.

The German Chancellor, hours after May triggered Article 50 on Wednesday, had said that Britain could negotiate its future relationship with the EU only after it liberates itself from its existing EU commitments. Merkel also promised a "fair and constructive" approach to Brexit talks in the upcoming months.

"We must deal with many rights and obligations that have been linked to membership. Only then, later, can we talk about our future relationship," Merkel said.

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May also wrote a historic letter on Wednesday to the European Council president Donald Tusk, activating the process of the Brexit's divorce from the EU but had also said that it is "necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU".

Merkel, however, blocked the plea stating that Britain must first clarify as to how it plans to untangle itself from the commitments, rights and duties which the nation had entered into 44 years ago.

"It is only if we have sorted that out that we can next — and I hope soon — talk about our future relationship."

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