BERLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a German newspaper the European Union should take a tough stance in negotiations with Britain over its exit from the bloc after more than 40 years of membership.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday formally notified Brussels of Britain’s intention to quit the EU, triggering two years of talks to negotiate the terms of the divorce.
“We want to keep the Brits close but there are no rights without obligations,” Schaeuble told the Friday edition of regional newspaper Osnabruecker Zeitung.
Schaeuble said the key task in Brexit talks was to minimize damage to both parties but he added that would be tough due to the many complicated issues involved and the two-year timeframe.
Britain will not maintain its current access to the European single market if it does not accept the rules associated with it, he said.
Schaeuble said the aim was not to punish Britain and Brexit would hurt Britain and all other countries in Europe anyway.
“But it is of course important that we keep the rest of the EU together,” he said.
Schaeuble said EU member states should be prepared for Britain to try to play them off each other but warned that they needed to be united in talks with the London government.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Alison Williams)