BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and Britain should first strike a deal on the terms of Brexit and then proceed to discuss future bilateral relations, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said on Thursday.
Britain has said it would prefer parallel talks on its divorce terms, likely to include a bill to pay and the issue of citizens' rights, and its future trade and economic relations with the 27 EU countries.
The EU legislature will have to approve any deal with Britain after it quits the EU and will be involved in the Brexit negotiations once London triggers the talks in the coming weeks.
"Before we need to decide the Brexit, and then we will work for a good agreement between us and the UK," Antonio Tajani, an Italian conservative, told a news conference in Brussels after briefing EU leaders at a summit on the parliament's views about current issues.
Tajani, a close ally of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was elected European Parliament president in January for two and a half years with the backing of British Conservative MEPs -- a mandate that may help him to play a key role in the two-year Brexit talks.
He said the Parliament wants to be a "protagonist" during the talks and would have officials briefing him from the EU negotiating team led by Frenchman Michel Barnier.
The European Parliament will agree its negotiating position after Britain triggers the Brexit talks, Tajani said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who attended Thursday's summit, plans to formally launch the process before the end of this month.
Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt leads the European Parliament's Brexit team.
"The UK in the future will be an important, one of the most important, interlocutors of the EU," Tajani said, noting that being outside the EU was however not the same as being a member.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Gareth Jones)