German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Britons Thursday not to delude themselves that they would continue to enjoy EU rights after Brexit and insisted the bloc would only agree on future ties with London after they have nailed down a deal to leave.
Striking a firm tone in a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament before a weekend summit on Brexit, Merkel also said talks on Britain’s financial obligations to the EU would have to be addressed early on in the talks.
“A third state, and that’s what Britain will be, cannot and will not have at its disposal the same rights ... as members of the European Union,” Merkel, the EU’s most influential leader, told lawmakers.
“I must say this clearly here because I get the feeling that some people in Britain still have illusions — that would be wasted time,” she said, to loud applause from lawmakers.
Divorce comes first
Arguing that the Brexit talks would only really get going after Britain’s June 8 parliamentary election, Merkel stressed several times that all 27 remaining EU members agreed that the divorce settlement must be sorted out first.
“We can only do an agreement on the future relationship with Britain when all questions about its exit have been cleared up satisfactorily,” she said.
Merkel, a conservative who will seek a fourth term as German chancellor in an election September 24, said one priority would be to protect the interests of EU citizens living in Britain, including 100,000 Germans.
She said she was ready to make “a fair offer” to Britons in Germany if it was reciprocal.
EU ready for talks
Merkel also said the talks would require a lot of effort in the next two years but expressed confidence that the EU side was ready.
“In terms of substance and organization, we are very well prepared,” she said.