Brexit: UK and EU will ‘rip each other apart’ in talks, France predicts
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned that he will face a tough battle with the European Union in his efforts to secure a trade deal in the aftermath of Brexit.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian gave the prediction during the Munich Security Conference, as both sides prepare to begin negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc.
Mr le Drian warned Mr Johnson that Brussels will defend its interests when talks formally open up next month, saying: “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.”
The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost is set to make it clear that Mr Johnson will walk away from talks with the EU, unless it drops what he calls its “ridiculous and unreasonable” demands.
Mr Frost is said to be travelling to Brussels on Monday to lay down his opening gambit, following a meeting of his 40-strong negotiating team last week.
Mr le Drian is a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, and is one of the latest major European voices to speak out about the tough road ahead for the UK.
Fishing will be high on the agenda during trade talks, and it is believed that Mr Macron wants EU fleets to keep their access to UK waters, in what is set to be a key demand in the negotiations.
However, Mr Johnson has said that the UK will take control of its fishing waters, acting as a “independent coastal state” once the Brexit transition period is over.
The EU has sent repeated warnings to the UK ahead of talks, saying it should not expect to be able to carry enjoying “high quality” market access if it demands on moving away from the bloc’s existing social and environmental standards.
The new European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, told the European Parliament this week that Mr Johnson would have to accept a “level playing field” on rules and standards.