French think Boris Johnson is a ‘populist incapable of keeping his word’, diplomatic sources claim

Source warns of fears UK will ramp up Brexit demands until agreement is ‘impossible’

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 17 October 2021 02:27
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Related video: Brexit back in play as UK and EU restart talks on Northern Ireland Protocol

Senior officials in the French government have concluded that Boris Johnson is a populist who plans to derail any progress in the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, a report has suggested.

French sources told the Guardian this week that Emmanuel Macron’s government believes Mr Johnson is motivated by “short-term domestic political interests” and wants to use tensions with France to keep Brexit alive as an issue in British politics.

The report follows talks between the UK and EU over the implementation of the Brexit agreement signed late last year amid growing concern over trade issues in Northern Ireland.

If no solution can be found, there are fears that the trade deal could be suspended, potentially leading to retaliatory measures between the two sides.

A French source told the Guardian that the “instability” in the relationship was due to Mr Johnson and Brexit minister Lord David Frost’s attitude to the negotiations.

“The instability is that some have concluded that Johnson and Lord Frost do not want agreements on the Northern Ireland protocol, or anything much, but will continue ramping up demands until they are impossible,” they said.

There are also concerns that the UK government does not want to improve relations until after France’s presidential election next April, according to the report, when Mr Macron is set to battle for a second term in office.

Earlier this week, the European Commission unveiled a package of measures to reduce checks on food crossing the Irish Sea by 80 per cent as part of efforts to ease trade tensions in Northern Ireland.

Lord Frost acknowledged on Friday that the EU had made “encouraging” moves towards resolving the dispute but indicated that the UK government wanted the bloc to go further.

“I think the EU has definitely made an effort in pushing beyond where they typically go in these areas and we're quite encouraged by that,” he said on Friday.

“But obviously there is still quite a big gap. And that's what we've got to work through today and in the future.”

The Brexit minister has also said that the UK government wants the EU to agree to removing the European Court of Justice from Northern Ireland’s trading arrangements - a concession that Brussels has so far refused.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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