Merkel: Britain should hold no illusions exit will be easy

Merkel: Britain should hold no illusions exit will be easy

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday sought to dash British hopes that its exit from the European Union will have only a limited impact on the relations, rights and privileges it now has.

Speaking to German lawmakers ahead of a weekend summit in Brussels to discuss the so-called Brexit, Merkel said to applause that she had “the feeling that some in Britain still have illusions, and that is a waste of time.”

While Europe still envisions Britain as a close partner, Merkel said once it leaves the EU it will be an outsider and as such “can and will not have the same rights or be in a better position than a member of the European Union.”

“All of the 27 members of the European Union and European institutions are agreed upon that,” she said, to applause.

Britain has two years to complete its deal to leave the 28-nation European Union but is currently preoccupied with a snap election taking place in early June.

Merkel said pressing issues like the treatment of citizens living in each other’s nations, the bill of remaining costs to be paid by Britain and border issues in Ireland need to be dealt with before a future relationship can even be discussed.

“Without progress on the many open questions of the exit, including the financial questions, it makes no sense to have parallel negotiations over the future relationship,” the chancellor said.

“We need to know how Britain sees its future relations with us,” she added.

She said Germany will push for the impact of Brexit on Germans and other EU citizens living in Britain to be as minimal as possible, and for co-operation on security issues, like fighting organized crime and terrorism, to remain close.

“Let there be no doubt: Brexit negotiations will demand a lot from Britain and Europe,” she said.

She added that Germany and other EU countries need to define their own “interests and goals,” and that she expects EU nations to emerge from the Brussels summit with a “strong signal of unity.”

EU officials at a meeting in Luxembourg said the EU nations formed a solid bloc and said little still needs to be agreed on in tough guidelines for their Brexit negotiators, which are to be approved at Saturday’s summit.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said “we are ready, we are ready” as he entered the meeting.

_____

Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

David Rising, The Associated Press

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