Merkel: British EU immigration cap would have price

A future cap on immigration by European Union citizens to Britain would come at a price for the U.K.'s relations with the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.

Britain and the EU are preparing for negotiations on Britain's departure, which Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered in late March but will start in earnest after a British election next month. May insists that Britain must leave the bloc's single market in order to control immigration.

Merkel said at an event with international labor union officials in Berlin that "if the British government says that free movement of people is no longer valid, that will have its price in relations with Britain."

"This isn't malicious, but I can't have all the good sides and then say there's a cap of 100,000 or 200,000 EU citizens, more aren't allowed into Britain — perhaps researchers as well, but no others, please," Merkel said.

"That won't work, and then we would have to think about what obstacle we create from the European side to compensate for that," she added.

Nearly 52 percent of Britons who voted in a referendum last June chose to leave the EU.

"We will, of course, always think in the future relationship of the 48 or 49 percent who didn't back Brexit," Merkel said. She didn't specify how.

The divorce process will be "very, very complicated," Merkel said.