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Angela Merkel dismisses UK 'illusions' over Brexit negotiations

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 28/04/2017 Mark Chandler

© Provided by Independent Print Limited Angela Merkel has dismissed the UK’s “illusions” that it can discuss its future relationship with Brussels while still negotiating Brexit.

The German chancellor's stance appears to clash with that of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has insisted Britain will not pay a Brexit divorce bill before "substantive" negotiations with the EU start.

Mrs. Merkel's insistence that the terms of exit - including the issue of a bill which could run to £50billion - are dealt with first comes ahead of a crunch meeting of EU leaders on Saturday to discuss their approach to the negotiations.

Speaking in the Bundestag, Mrs. Merkel was cheered as she struck a firm tone about Germany's approach.

image © Provided by Independent Print Limited image Before the negotiations can even begin, Mrs. Merkel said Britain must engage in "constructive dialogue" with the EU to answer open questions.

"We need to know how Britain sees its future relations with us."

Mrs. Merke said she had "the feeling that some in Britain still have illusions on that score”.

She added: “That would just be a waste of time.”

Mrs. Merkel insisted, once Britain leaves the EU, it will be an outsider 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.

She stressed Germany will push for the impact of Brexit on Germans and other European Union citizens living in Britain to be as minimal as possible, and for co-operation on security issues, like fighting organised 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".

"There is now a great deal of agreement between the 27 nations and EU institutions about our joint negotiating line with Britain," she said.

Mr. Johnson was not clear whether he opposed agreeing on a divorce settlement or paying it before trade negotiations, but struck a defiant tone on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday.

He said: "If you're saying that they want the money before they get any substantive talks then that is obviously not going to happen."

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