Jens Spahn, a rising star in Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, told HARDtalk the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit was already about to be discussed.
Speaking on the programme, he said: “Well they are separate, that’s right. But of course you can start simultaneously. Perhaps not on the first day, first of all you need to settle the divorce that’s true.
“We are already about to talk about all this. You can already start the talks about what’s going to happen after.
Jens Spahn said Brexit divorce and trade talks can happen at the same time
You can already start the talks about what’s going to happen after
“But this will be the mother of negotiations actually, it will be one of the biggest negotiations that ever has been in the world between states.”
Mr Spahn’s comments are at odds with those of Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, who previously said an exit deal must be negotiated before any trade talks can begin.
The 66-year-old former French minister and EU commissioner currently has a 29-strong team to coordinate Brussels' efforts to reach a divorce deal with Britain by 2019.
Mr Spahn, who is vying to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor, added he wanted the Brexit divorce settlement to begin “soon” to rid any uncertainty and while Britain could not “cherry pick” what it wanted from the bloc there was room for manoeuvre.
“There’s a lot of work to do and so we should start soon to get away actually this uncertainty for so many people and so many business that is affected by this,” he said.
“Let’s start this and let’s find a way to have a very strong relationship economically and politically after as well. There’s no cherry picking but much, much room for compromise.”
One sticking point is likely to be an EU bill presented to Theresa May to pay before the UK leaves the bloc.
Eurocrats have refused to be drawn on the size of it, but it is thought it could be as high as £60billion.
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Angela Merkel in pictures Tue, November 29, 2016
Angela Merkel has served as German Chancellor since 2005 and Leader of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000. We take a look at her political career in pictures.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the gala for the 200th anniversary of Werner von Siemens on November 29, 2016 at the historic headquarters of Siemens in Berlin
EU Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists individual member states were making “calculations” about how much money they believed Britain woud owe them by the time Brexit came around.
Mrs May is expected to start the formal process for Britain’s exit from the EU by triggering Article 50 on March 9, ensuring the UK will be free of Brussels control by April 2019.
The Government is well ahead of its March 7 deadline to push its European Union Notification of Withdrawal Bill through Parliament, after a successful vote earlier this month.
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