March 31, 2017 / 2:53 PM / in 2 years

Merkel ally welcomes EU Brexit offer, warns UK against dividing bloc

BERLIN (Reuters) - A transition period offered to Britain by the European Union in Brexit negotiating guidelines it issued on Friday is the only way to avoid the talks failing, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

In the guidelines, the EU offered Britain talks this year on a future free trade pact but made clear that London must first agree to the bloc’s demands on the terms of Brexit.

The document, seen by Reuters, sets tough conditions for any transition period, insisting Britain must accept many EU rules after any such partial withdrawal.

Detlef Seif, the deputy EU spokesman for Merkel’s conservative parliamentary bloc, said there were effectively only 15 months for the negotiations and this was insufficient time to wrap up Britain’s exit from the bloc.

“Without transitional provisions, the negotiations would be doomed to failure from the start,” Seif told Reuters.

“The proposal provides the necessary room and flexibility to negotiate reasonably and to reach high-quality arrangements,” he said of the guidelines, which may be revised before leaders of the remaining 27 EU states endorse them at an April 29 summit.

“The more access to the internal market Britain wants, the greater the trade-off and so the more Britain must submit to EU law,” said Seif, warning Britain not to try to divide the bloc by negotiating with individual member states.

“Should this transpire, it would be the end of the EU’s good behavior and willingness to compromise, which can clearly be seen in the draft guidelines,” he added.

Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman, told reporters on Friday that negotiations about a future free trade deal between Britain and the EU could take place only after the contours of the Brexit divorce talks were clear.

Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer said it was important to quickly establish new parameters for trade with Britain, his state’s third biggest European trading partner.

“We must establish a new basis for the relationship in the Brexit negotiations as quickly as possible, and do everything we can to avoid new trade barriers,” he wrote in a commentary to be published next week in German magazine vbw-Unternehmermagazin.

Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Roche

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