German Chancellor Angela Merkel says some British people have “illusions” about discussing the UK’s future ties with the EU at the same time as nailing down the UK’s Brexit terms.
An EU-UK deal can only be discussed once the exit issues – such as UK payments to the EU budget – are resolved, Mrs Merkel told German MPs.
The UK initiated the formal procedure to leave the EU on 29 March.
It sets a two-year deadline for completion of the exit negotiations.
EU leaders are to meet on Saturday to adopt their joint negotiating position on Brexit. They are working on the basis of draft guidelines issued on 31 March.
Official talks will not begin until after the UK general election on 8 June.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the early election, saying she needed to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations.
The EU wants the terms of the UK’s exit to be decided before any discussion of a future trade relationship, while Mrs May wants the two issues to be dealt with simultaneously.
The German chancellor told German MPs it would be “a waste of time” to maintain illusions that the two sets of negotiations could be held simultaneously.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the EU would “for sure” reach a free trade deal with the UK after Brexit.
But Mrs Merkel warned that it would be a different relationship, saying: “A third country – which is what the UK will be – cannot and will not have the same rights as an EU member state.