The new French minister for Europe Clement Beaune has said No Deal Brexit is better than a bad deal and France will not be ‘intimidated’ in upcoming talks.
‘We will not accept a deal at any price,’ he told France Inter radio in his first public comments on Brexit since his appointment on Sunday.
‘Better no deal at all than a bad deal,’ he said while adding that a deal was nevertheless the best outcome for all concerned.
He said France would be ‘intransigent’ on fishing, and will not be ‘intimidated’ by Britain in the negotiation ‘game’.
‘Let’s not kid ourselves, if there is no deal, it will be a difficult issue,’ he added. ‘We’ll have to organise a response for sectors like fisheries. Support our fishermen financially. We’re not there yet.’
Britain and the European Union clashed last week over the chances of securing a free trade agreement, with Brussels deeming it ‘unlikely’ but London holding out hope one could be reached in September.
France is one of the coastal states that has pushed hardest for EU fishermen to keep the right to fish in British waters after a transition period ends at the end of this year.
Before becoming Europe minister, Beaune served as President Emmanuel Macron’s Europe adviser. A self-described anglophile, he has advised Macron on Brexit negotiations since the 2016 referendum.
The French negotiator lashed out at representatives from Lithuania and Hungary last week, who said that the coastal fishing issue should not stand in the way of a deal.
Beaune’s comments yesterday contrast those of EU negotiator Michel Barnier, who has tried to compromise between the UK’s hardline stance on taking back its waters come January 1 and European fishermen being able to continue fishing where they have in the past.
EU negotiators believe they will be able to strike a deal with the UK.
‘It’s a big ask for the EU and it’s not such a big give for the UK, because in the end, it’s access to waters for access to markets,’ an EU source told the Telegraph.
‘You can’t eat fish in the morning, the evening and the night.’
One source said member states are worried that the EU may decide to hit the UK with sanctions if it decided to restrict access for European fishing.
Another added that once Brexit happens, the UK won’t be able to fish its waters as much as it is currently.
Mr Barnier has set a new date of 31 October for a deal to be prepared for the UK to leave on 1 January.
However, earlier this month Barnier blasted the UK as he warned a trade deal is ‘unlikely’ before the end of the year.
He lashed out at Britain over its hardline position on fishing rights in territorial waters after the transition period ends on December 31 as talks ended without breakthrough in London.
Mr Barnier used a press conference to warn that the EU would not accept a deal that resulted in the ‘partial destruction’ of the EU fishing industry, but would continue with talks to ‘the last moment’.
‘By its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement – at this point – unlikely,’ Mr Barnier said.
Speaking after this week’s round of negotiations in London, Barnier said there been no progress at all on the question of ensuring fairness on state aid.
‘The time for answers is quickly running out,’ he told a news conference, referring to the five months left before the end of Britain’s transition period since it formally left the EU at the end of January. ‘If we do not reach an agreement on our future partnership there will be more friction.’
UK negotiator David Frost admitted ‘considerable gaps’ remain between the two sides but help out hope for a deal to be struck after some concession in other areas of conflict.
But he confirmed the two sides remained at loggerheads over fishing rights in UK waters and the ‘level playing field’ on standards.