UK living under 'illusion' over Brexit, say Markel

Indo Asian News Service

Berlin, April 27 (IANS) German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said British politicians are still living under the "illusion" that Britain will retain most of its rights and privileges once it leaves the European Union (EU).

"Countries with a third-country status, and that's what Great Britain will be, cannot and will not have the same or even more rights as a member of the EU. All 27 member-states and the European institutions agree on this," said Merkel.

EU leaders will meet on Saturday to formally adopt their joint negotiating position on Brexit, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

The future relationship can only be discussed once the exit issues -- such as Britain's payments to the EU budget -- are resolved, Markel told MPs while addressing Bundestag, lower house of Germany's Parliament.

On the sequence of the Brexit talks, she said "some people in the UK still have some illusions on that score".

"That would be just a waste of time," she said.

Merkel said the immediate Brexit priorities to decide on were: The rights of EU citizens in the UK, Britons in continental Europe and Britain's ongoing financial obligations.

"We can only do an agreement on the future relationship with Britain when all questions about its exit have been cleared up satisfactorily," Markel said.

The German Chancellor said, "The sooner the UK government is ready for constructive solutions, the sooner we can meet its wish to talk about the future relationship. But first, we need to know how the UK government envisages that relationship. It can only be done in that sequence."

EU officials estimate that Britain faces a bill of $65 billion because of EU budget rules. Britain's politicians have, however, said the government will not pay a sum of that size, the daily reported.

Merkel's speech comes as a stern rebuke for Britain, which had been hoping there was some ambiguity in the EU position on whether trade talks could run in parallel with negotiations on separation terms before a financial settlement.

Minutes before the Chancellor spoke, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was pressed in an interview whether trade would have to wait until the divorce bill was settled and he responded: "We'll see".

Merkel said talks about Britain's financial contributions to the EU budget could not wait until the end of the negotiations but had to be part of the talks from the start.

She also stressed the need to protect rights of an estimated 100,000 German citizens living in Britain as her government's first priority.

In return, she added, Germany would be prepared to make a "fair offer" to British citizens living in Germany.

--IANS

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