On ‘Brexit,’ It’s Divorce First, Trade Talks Later, E.U. Tells U.K.

The words were tough, but unsurprising: For months, since Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the bloc, Brussels has insisted that the terms of a future trade agreement would not be negotiated until the terms of the divorce were clear.

“This is my first divorce, and I hope the last one.”

Britain formally began the withdrawal process on Wednesday, and Mr. Tusk’s statement on Friday essentially made official the European Union’s stance.

That was in keeping with the tough talk coming from Germany, the bloc’s most influential member, this week. On Friday, the finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, told a newspaper in the country that, while both sides should strive to minimize the damage, “there are no rights without obligations” and that Britain would have to leave the single market if it refused to abide by the European Union’s principles.

That followed a statement on Thursday by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germanythat rejected a demand put forth by Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain that talks on the withdrawal be conducted in tandem with discussions about economic relations.

“The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship,” Ms. Merkel said. “Only when this question is dealt with can we — hopefully, soon after — begin talking about our future relationship.”

In laying out the European Union’s terms for the exit negotiations — which still must be approved by the leaders of the 27 remaining nations — Mr. Tusk essentially presented the bloc’s response to Mrs. May’s opening move.

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The Road to a Post-‘Brexit’ Deal

The British government invoked Article 50, the provision that starts negotiations on the country’s exit from the European Union.


By CAMILLA SCHICK,…

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