boris and heiko maas
© Getty Images / Carsten Koall / Stringer
With the protracted Brexit saga coming to an end this week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made a not-so-veiled warning to the UK, saying it still must abide by EU rules if it wants full access to the bloc's single market.

While cheering the fact that the British decision to part ways with the EU is finally getting an orderly implementation, Maas said his nation expects the relationship with the UK "to be as close as possible, even after Brexit".

The minister delved into security and political issues where the two parties can benefit from close cooperation, but also mentioned the most contentious thing, the economy.

"Let me say very openly: Yes, we all want zero tariffs and zero trade barriers, but that also means zero dumping and zero unfair competition," he wrote in a 'farewell' article published in Die Zeit. "Without similar standards to protect our workers, our consumers and the environment, there can be no full access to the largest single market in the world."

During the Brexit campaign, the big emotional appeal for Leave voters was to "take back control" from Brussels. Maas is apparently quite skeptical about how much control Britons may actually get without losing the benefits of free trade with the EU. And that, he stressed, is not an attempt to punish Britain for leaving, but the reality that London and Brussels will have to negotiate their future relationship in a "way that wouldn't harm the European Union."

The German minister also suggested that should Britain change its mind, there would be "place for you at our table in Brussels." He said that the Beatles sang: "You say goodbye, I say hello," adding that the 'goodbye' is sorted and it is time to focus on 'hello.'