Britain and EU will ‘rip each other apart’ during trade talks, France warns

Foreign minister says it will be tough to reach agreement by December 2020

Peter Stubley
Sunday 16 February 2020 18:53 GMT
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Jean-Yves Le Drian said there were ‘lots of issues’ to sort out before end of year
Jean-Yves Le Drian said there were ‘lots of issues’ to sort out before end of year (AFP/Getty)

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Britain and the EU will “rip each other apart” during Brexit trade negotiations, the French foreign minister has warned.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said it would be tough to conclude the talks by the end of the year because of the differences between the two sides.

The minister was speaking at the Munich Security Conference alongside the UK’s cabinet secretary and national security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill.

“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,” he said.

Mr Le Drian went on to qualify his remarks by adding: “But that is the nature of trade – everyone will protect their own interests.”

He also said that there were “some difficult points” to sort out – including fishing rights – but expressed his hope that the negotiations would be completed as quickly as possible.

“With the United Kingdom, we must take note of our common interests and our achievements, and develop them in our bilateral relationship, within the Atlantic Alliance and in pragmatic frameworks for action,” he tweeted after the panel discussion which was titled “Eurovision Contest: A Europe that Projects”.

Boris Johnson has suggested that Britain could negotiate a free trade deal like Canada or a looser “Australia-style” arrangement based on WTO terms.

However one former cabinet minister has claimed that many in parliament expect the prime minister to back down as the reality of no deal approaches.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, dismissed the mention of Australia as akin to “no deal” but indicated that the EU was “fine with that”.

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