BRUSSELS: The European Parliament insisted today there can be no discussion of future ties with Britain until the divorce conditions are finalised, rejecting a key demand of British Prime Minister Theresa May.
MEPs added their voice to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who rebuffed May's call for negotiations for Britain's withdrawal to run alongside talks on a trade relationship after Brexit.
"An orderly exit is an absolute requirement and a precondition for any potential future EU-UK partnership. This is not negotiable," European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani told a press conference.
May triggered the historic two-year process of Brexit talks today, following Britain's shock June 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union.
In a resolution to be approved next week, lawmakers said there "should substantial progress be made towards a withdrawal agreement then talks could start on possible transitional arrangements".
Any transitional period to work out a trade deal after Britain formally leaves the European Union in March 2019 should be limited to three years.
"We don't exclude a transitional period, which from our point of view should be limited in time. We propose three years," the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.
The resolution also calls for Britain to quickly settle uncertainties over the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and over the bill that the EU says it must pay to withdraw.
The European Parliament will have the final say on any Brexit deal in a vote expected at the end of 2018 or in early 2019.