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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has laid down a hard line for Brexit talks warning the UK against harbouring any “illusions” about getting favours from the EU.

In her toughest message so far on Brexit, Ms Merkel pledged the EU would put its interests first and manage the negotiations in its chosen way. This involves dealing first with the exit bill, in defiance of Britain’s demands for the financial issues to be handled at the same time as talks on a new relationship. The order was “not reversible” she said.

Addressing the German parliament before the 27 EU leaders discuss Brexit at a summit on Saturday, she said the remaining members were heading into the talks with a firm sense of unity.

“I have to put it in such clear terms because unfortunately I have the feeling that some in Britain still have illusions”, said the chancellor, the EU’s most powerful leader. “But that would be a waste of time.”

Ms Merkel also argued the EU could not afford to concentrate only on Brexit in the face of global challenges such as free trade and climate change. These were “too big for Europe to be able to afford to focus on itself for the next two years, regardless of Brexit,” she said.

“We will conduct these negotiations in a fair and constructive way and we expect exactly the same from the British side.”

Ms Merkel’s coalition, comprising her conservative bloc and the Social Democrats, stand firmly behind her line on Brexit. Even though the parties are already campaigning for a key regional election in May and a crucial parliamentary vote in September, differences over Brexit politics are expected to be negligible.

German lawmakers are due to approve later on Thursday a resolution that lays out a broad conditions for the EU’s talks with the UK and will require a say for the Bundestag on the final deal, including any future access to the single market and the shape of any transitional deal.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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