Merkel warns against British 'illusions' as Brexit negotiations begin

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Ahead of a meeting of the 27 remaining European Union nations in Brussels on Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel briefed the German parliament, the Bundestag, about Germany’s strategy vis-a-vis Brexit. But at least in part her message was aimed across the English Channel.

The chancellor warned London not to expect a deal that would privilege the UK.

“A third-party state cannot enjoy the same advantages or be better positioned than an EU member state,” Merkel said. “I have the feeling that some people in Britain maintain illusions in this regard. They’re wasting their time.”

That line drew applause from members of the Bundestag. Merkel reiterated that negotiators would have to resolve the details of Britain’s exit from the EU, including financial obligations that could extend beyond Britain’s departure, before any deals could be struck about a future English-EU relationship.

“These steps must happen in that order,” Merkel said. “Our goal is to get the best deal for Europe and its citizens.”

Merkel added that negotiations could only commence in earnest after the United Kingdom’s parliamentary election on June 8.

London Imbiss deutsche Würstchen (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gentsch)

It’s unclear how the EU will trade with a post-Brexit UK

Expats high on the agenda 

Not all of Merkel’s remarks focused on the potential conflicts of interest between the EU and the UK. The chancellor also said that Germany and the EU had an interest in a strong and prosperous Britain.

She said one of her priorities was to clear up the future status of the approximately 100,000 German citizens permanently living in Britain. In return, Germany and the EU were prepared to offer British expatriates in the bloc a “fair deal.”

Merkel also expressed confidence that the EU and post-Brexit Britain shared interests in businesses being able to sell their products to the other and fighting against terrorism and organized crime.

At the same time, the EU showed a high degree of solidarity in the wake of the British referendum in June 2016, in which a slight majority of UK voters supported the Brexit, Merkel added. Specifically naming Ireland, she said that it was a sign of European strength that none of the individual EU-27 states had engaged in “preliminary negotiations” with London.

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