London [UK], Mar. 30 : Hours after the Britain invoked Article 50 to start the formal process of Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dealt an instant blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May's plan of holding trade talks at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations.
Merkel said that talks on British divorce terms would take place first, after which talks on a future relationship would "hopefully soon" take place, reports the Independent.
The intervention could potentially make the Brexit process significantly more arduous for the UK, which would also likely have to rely on a transitional arrangement with the bloc after it leaves but before a separate trade deal can be negotiated.
The German Chancellor told reporters in Berlin, "The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship..and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship." In her letter triggering Article 50, May explicitly said that she believed it "is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union".
This comes as European Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt explicitly ruled out giving the UK a better trade deal in exchange for better security or defence arrangements.
The Prime Minister had also repeatedly and explicitly linked "economic and security cooperation" in her Article 50 letter.
In the same address on Wednesday, Merkel said Germany and its other European partners "certainly did not wish for this day" of Britain leaving the EU and that she would strive to make the impact of leaving the bloc on Britain's citizens "as small as possible".
The German Chancellor pledged that she would do all she could to make sure the talks were "fair and constructive" and said she hoped British negotiators would do the same.
Britain now has two years to negotiate a divorce deal with the EU, during which the two sides will have to come to agreement over questions of citizens' rights, an exit bill, immigration and a future trading relationship and also whether Britain owes the bloc any money.