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May says Merkel talk of UK illusions shows how tough Brexit talks will be

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LONDON (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about Britain having illusions over its future relationship with the European Union show how tough the upcoming Brexit negotiations will be, Prime Minister Theresa May will say on Thursday.

Earlier Merkel said some people in Britain still had illusions over the EU rights they would continue to enjoy after Brexit and insisted the bloc would only agree on future ties with London after an exit deal has been nailed down.

May will use a speech in the opposition Labour stronghold of Leeds in northern England on Thursday to urge voters to back her Conservative Party at an election on June 8 to give her “the strongest possible hand” in negotiations.

“This election is not about who you may have voted for in the past. It is about voting in the national interest. Voting for the future. And every vote cast for me ... will strengthen my hand when I negotiate with the Prime Ministers, Presidents and Chancellors of Europe,” she will say according to advance extracts released by her party.

“(Merkel) says the UK has ‘illusions’ about the process and that the 27 member states of the European Union agree. We can see how tough those negotiations are going to be at times.”

May, whose Conservatives have a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, will say that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be “a weak leader negotiating Brexit”.

“Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations, at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us,” May will say.

“That approach can only mean one thing – uncertainty and instability, bringing grave risk to our growing economy with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt.”

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Guy Faulconbridge