French EU Minister Warns No-Deal Brexit Likely Despite Positive Vibes From Johnson-Varadkar Talks
French Minister for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin spoke on France Inter radio on Friday to warn that a no-deal Brexit is a likely scenario if Britain does not seek compromise.
When asked about the likelihood of the UK crashing out of the European Union without securing a withdrawal agreement, de Montchalin said:
“It is likely. At this point, if talks do not proceed the way we hope they will, if there is no desire, particularly from the British side, for compromise, then a no-deal is possible.”
However, de Montchalin said an agreement was still possible, as talks between the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his British counterpart, Stephen Barclay, on Friday would continue to explore various acceptable options.
“We are working on a deal, not any deal and not at any conditions. We will not give in on the principles that we have laid out for two and a half years,” she said.
The French EU minister insisted:
“We want peace in Ireland, we want to protect our companies from disloyal competition and we want our future relations (with the UK) to be balanced.”
“Positive” Vibes Registered
UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on the heels of a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar that lasted over two hours on Thursday at Thornton Manor, Merseyside.
As “positive vibes” seem to have been registered in the wake of “detailed and constructive” talks, Leo Varadkar told reporters that although negotiations were at a “very sensitive stage” they were “very positive and very promising”.
He added he was now “convinced” the UK wanted an agreement:
“I do see a pathway towards an agreement in the coming weeks.”
Earlier, Leo Varadkar refused to comment on what “concessions” had been made by either side.
Johnson Makes “Irish Border” Pitch
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reportedly pitched to his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar a “pared-down free trade agreement” to overcome the Brexit impasse and get a divorce deal with the European Union inked by the scheduled 31 October deadline, Sky News reported Thursday, citing sources in Brussels.
Brussels has reportedly been encouraged by the positive feedback from Thursday’s talks, and the backing of Irish PM Varadkar could become a key factor in persuading other EU leaders to support a divorce deal, said Sky News.
Last week, Johnson unveiled his new Brexit blueprint, hinging on an all-Ireland regulatory framework on cross-border trade.
Under the plan, Northern Ireland would exit the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK after the end of the transition period, with some form of regulatory checks in place for goods crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain to the six counties.
The news comes ahead of a crunch summit of EU leaders on 17 and 18 October, which is seen as a last-ditch chance for the UK and the EU to hammer out a deal ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.
Johnson continues to insist the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal at the end of the month, despite the so-called Benn Act – passed by MPs last month – demanding he request a delay to the Article 50 deadline from the EU until January 2020 if a deal has not been agreed upon before 19 October.