/Britain and France set to rip each other apart in EU trade negotiations

Britain and France set to rip each other apart in EU trade negotiations


Prime Minister Boris Johnson alongside new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (second right), Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill (left) and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey (right) during the first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London, since the reshuffle. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday February 14, 2020. See PA story POLITICS Cabinet. Photo credit should read: Matt Dunham/PA Wire
The EU has repeatedly warned Britain cannot expect to enjoy continued ‘high quality’ market access if it insists on diverging from EU social and environmental standards (Picture: PA)

France has warned Britain to expect a bruising battle with the EU in the forthcoming negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian predicted the two sides would ‘rip each other apart’ as they strove for advantage in the talks. Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, he made clear that Brussels will defend its interests when negotiations begin next month.

He said: ‘I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart. But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.’

Mr le Drian, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, is the latest senior EU figure to warn that the negotiations will be difficult.


French President Emmanuel Macron gestures on the second day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)
Mr le Drian, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, is the latest senior EU figure to warn that the negotiations will be difficult (Picture: AP)

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and chief negotiator Michel Barnier have both cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s aim to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year when the Brexit transition period runs out.

COPY BY TOM BEDFORD Pictured: The Price family who were rescued in a bucket of a tractor. Re: A family in rural Monmouthshire was saved by a local farmer and his tractor on Sunday, after five feet of floodwater poured into their home, stranding them. Amy Price said she, her parents, and their two dogs were all trapped in the house for nine hours when Storm Dennis caused the River Usk to burst its banks next to their Llanover home. "This is the worst it has ever flooded," she said. "The noise it was making was horrendous ? it was so scary." Flood alerts had been put out for the area on Saturday, but nothing could have prepared the family for the extent of that night's rainfall and flooding.Farmer rescues family from flooding with his tractor loader bucket

The EU has repeatedly warned Britain cannot expect to enjoy continued ‘high quality’ market access if it insists on diverging from EU social and environmental standards.

There is expected to be a particularly tough fight over fishing rights, with the EU insisting continued access to UK waters must form part of any agreement.

Mr Johnson, in turn, has said the UK will act as an ‘independent coastal state’ taking control of its own fisheries.


(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 21, 2020 guls surround a fishing trawler as it works in the North Sea, off the coast of North Shields, in northeast England on January 21, 2020. - The European Union will offer Britain a close post-Brexit trading relationship but demand tough terms on fisheries and a level playing field for businesses, EU chief negotiator said February 3, 2020. (Photo by William EDWARDS / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM EDWARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
There is expected to be a particularly tough fight over fishing rights (Picture: AFP)

Northern Ireland seeks generosity from EU

The EU should allow vital concessions like zero tariffs in a spirit of generosity during trade talks, retailers in Northern Ireland said.

thumbnail for post ID 12254826Heathrow hotel block booked ‘until mid-March for coronavirus quarantine’

Higher costs and less availability will hit the region hardest unless extra measures are taken mitigating the effects of Brexit, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC), which represents larger businesses, said.

It urged the UK Government to establish import and export processes and all necessary infrastructure now.

Director Aodhan Connolly said: ‘We need the UK government to work with us to deliver key mitigations that could reduce the impact on consumers and retailers.

‘And we need a generosity of spirit from the EU to allow these mitigations to happen.’

The lobby group called for pragmatic solutions on compliance and regulatory checks that will apply from January 2021 once the Brexit transition period ends.

thumbnail for post ID 12240994I didn’t realise how many gifts politicians were sent until I became an MP

Almost 80% of all the food that UK retailers import comes from the EU, making the negotiations particularly important for such essentials, traders said.

Mr Connolly added: ‘Without the mitigations recommended within this report, there will be higher costs and less availability for Northern Ireland consumers and this will hit us hardest.

‘We already have half of the discretionary income of Great British households and so our households in Northern Ireland simply can’t afford these costs rises.

‘We are talking about costs that have simply never been there before.

‘It is a simple equation that if the new costs are higher than the profit margin then either the product or that particular business model needs to change or becomes unviable.

‘We also already have between 12 and 18 hours’ less shelf life on some products than shops in Great Britain due to our geographical location. Any further delays affects availability.’

Measures the lobby group is seeking include:

  • A zero tariff trade deal
  • Co-operation with the EU to minimise trade friction
  • Coordination on VAT, customs and excise procedures
  • Advance information on new checks and paperwork
  • Timely construction of necessary infrastructure at UK ports.

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