France’s Europe Minister Amélie de Montchalin has issued several warning shots to the UK Government, following Boris Johnson’s announcement he will pull trade negotiations in June if the talks fail to make any progress. Speaking at Chatham House, the French minister warned “Brexit has consequences” and ruled out a Canada-style trade deal. Ms de Montchalin also rejected the suggestion of an Australian-style trade deal, branding it “for the birds”.
Speaking at the Future of the UK-EU and UK-France Relationships event, Ms de Montchalin said: “You are not Canada, you are certainly not Australia – first of all because we can come to you by train, you are the United Kingdom.”
She said the EU does not “accept cherry picking” and warned “we decide how we want to trade with third countries”.
When discussing the idea the EU will sign up an Australia-style, she said such a deal “doesn’t exist”.
She also warned the UK not to underestimate the unity of the EU27.
The French minister did indicate it was possible for a deal to be reached by the end of the Brexit transition period, on December 31, but described it as an “artificial deadline”.
She said: “Substance is more important than deadlines.”
Ms de Montchalin insisted the EU will not agree a deal they don’t like just because of a looming deadline.
But Mr Johnson has said he will never extend the transition period past the end of 2020 and yesterday he even threatened to pull the talks altogether.
Unveiling the Government’s Brexit masterplan in the Commons, Michael Gove said that if negotiations with Brussels had failed to progress by June, the Government would end the talks and spend the next six months preparing for a hard exit on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.
He also stressed the importance of the future of the UK as a free and independent nation, ruling out the EU’s level playing field demand.
Mr Gove said: “We want the best possible trading relationship with the EU, but in a pursuit of a deal, we will not trade away our sovereignty.