LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the other 27 European Union (EU) nations of lining up to oppose Britain over Brexit after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Britain should have no "illusions" over the exit process.
The EU leaders have stressed a united stance as they plan to meet today to set down the bloc's red lines - although the talks will not begin until June, after a snap British election called by Mrs May.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Dr Merkel said "a third-party state will not have the same rights or even superior rights to a member state". "This may sound self-evident, but I have to say this clearly because some in Britain seem to have illusions on this point," she said.
Later that day, Mrs May accused the 27 other EU member states of joining forces against Britain. "We can see how tough those negotiations are going to be at times," Mrs May told a campaign rally in Leeds.
"Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations - at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us. 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."
Dr Merkel, the leader of the biggest EU economy, said: "The negotiations will be very demanding, without a doubt."
The EU has toughened its strategy and made new demands over financial services, immigration and the bills Britain must settle before ending its 44-year-old EU membership.
Britain could be required to give EU citizens permanent residency after living there for five years, challenging Mrs May's government, which vowed to limit immigration.
The EU's latest draft negotiating guidelines, agreed on Monday, seek to ensure Britain does not get a better deal outside the bloc than inside.
According to the document seen by AFP, the other EU countries will seek to hold Britain liable for the bloc's costs for at least a year after it leaves in 2019 - longer than was previously proposed.
Dr Merkel said talks from the very start must include Britain's financial obligations, including after Brexit. She said these issues must be resolved first in a "satisfactory" way before negotiations turn to Britain's future relations with the EU - a sequence she called "irreversible".
Meanwhile, family allegiances have been swept aside in the run-up to Britain's June 8 general election, with the sister of Foreign Minister Boris Johnson joining a rival party. Ms Rachel Johnson, a prominent columnist, has signed up to the pro-European Liberal Democrats, a centre-left party with just nine seats in the British Parliament but is hoping to make gains against the ruling Conservative Party by opposing the government's Brexit strategy.