- Britain and the EU will “rip each other part” in trade talks, according to a leading European minister.
- Emmanuel Macron’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian predicted talks would turn nasty.
- Boris Johnson’s UK government is set to begin negotiating a deal with Brussels next month.
- The UK must overcome major disagreements over fishing and EU rules to overcome to strike a deal by the end of 2020.
- Johnson’s chief trade negotiator, David Frost, is set to reiterate the UK’s tough negotiating position in a lecture in Brussels on Monday evening.
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The United Kingdom and the European Union will “rip each other part” in negotiations over a new trade deal, a leading European minister has predicted.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister in Emmanuel Macron’s French government, said on Sunday that talks between Britain and the EU would turn nasty when the sides clash over contentious issues like fishing and EU rules.
“I think that on trade issues or on the measures for our future relationship that we are going to discuss, we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart,” Le Drian told the Munich Security Conference.
“But that is part of the negotiation. Everyone is going to defend their interests.”
Talks between Britain and the EU are due to start next month. Both sides aim to reach some sort of agreement by the end of the year, when the 11-month Brexit transition period comes to an end.
Several senior EU figures have expressed doubts that something can be agreed in so short a timetable.
EU trade chief Phil Hogan said last month it was “just not possible” to negotiate a comprehensive free trade deal in that time. Trade deals with the EU usually take a number of years, and also need to be ratified by EU institutions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it’s “epically likely” that a deal will be done.
Fishing is one of the thorniest issues for negotiators to overcome.
Johnson’s UK government has promised that Britain will take back control of its waters as part of leaving the EU. However, EU countries like France are prioritising access to British waters as part of a new trade relationship.
Macron’s French government is set to take a particularly tough stance on fishing.
French foreign minister Le Drian said the country would not “compromise” on this part of negotiations, adding: “Fishing cannot in any way be a bargaining chip in the negotiations.”
The question of EU regulations in a variety of fields is a second potential flashpoint in negotiations.
Brussels has warned Johnson that the UK must commit in writing to following EU rules on environmental standards and workers’ rights in order to gain privileged access to its market.
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The UK prime minister said in a speech last month that he would rather walk away without a trade deal than sign up to EU rules.
Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost is expected to reiterate this message when he delivers a lecture at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium on Monday evening.
French minister Le Drian said on Sunday that he hoped the UK and EU would overcome the difference in opinion to negotiate a close relationship, telling the conference: “We must realise that we have common interests.”
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