France issues veto warning on unacceptable Brexit trade deal

France has warned it will veto any trade deal between the EU and the UK unless it meets its demands as negotiations intensify in London to try to seal a deal from here the start of next week.

Negotiators are racing against time to finalize a deal ahead of a European Council meeting in Brussels starting next Thursday and before UK MPs hold a series of potentially inflammatory Brexit votes, starting Monday.

Both sides hope a deal can be put in place this weekend, but officials in London and Brussels have dismissed a Reuters report citing an EU official speculating that a deal was “imminent.”

Boris Johnson faces a stalemate with a group of European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, trying to extract final concessions from the British Prime Minister.

As the discussions continued on Friday, Clément Beaune, French Minister for European Affairs, told Europe 1 radio: “If a good deal cannot be found, we will oppose it. Each country has a right of veto. ”

Mr Johnson’s allies say Britain is ready to sign a deal on Monday or Tuesday next week on the right terms, but some EU member states fear they will be forced to agree to a substandard deal.

France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands are among the countries that have asked to see the full text of any deal before Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, announced a deal.

“We fear that they will stick us down our throats,” said a European diplomat. The European Commission is leading talks on behalf of the EU27 and some major exporters – notably Germany – are pushing for a trade deal.

British officials on Thursday claimed the EU was making new demands “at the eleventh hour”, but this was denied by the EU team. A new competition regime and fisheries remain the biggest stumbling blocks.

Talks are now entering the decisive phase, with negotiators hiding in an underground UK government conference center near the House of Commons, fueled by take-out food.

Lunch is delivered to negotiators during Brexit negotiations in London this week © Vickie Flores / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said that ultimately it would be “the responsibility” of national governments to decide whether a deal is sufficient. “We will see what the overall balance of the agreement will be on the table, especially on difficult subjects.”

He said Britain should choose what “social, political and economic project it wants for its own future” and how far to separate from the EU, which he called “regulatory power”.

The issue of a ‘level playing field’ to ensure fair competition between the UK and the EU remains the most sensitive issue, affecting the integrity of the single market and Mr Johnson’s desire to regain his sovereignty .

Britain has rejected the idea of ​​creating a UK regulator to rule “ex ante” on state subsidies before they are awarded, a position reluctantly accepted by Barnier.

But the EU condition for doing this is that whatever is agreed on state aid is enforceable in UK courts, so that a European company can go to court to challenge state aid British to a rival unfairly disadvantaged her.

The UK also still resists cross-retaliation – the idea that an apparent breach of the rules in areas such as state aid could be sanctioned by the EU with sanctions in a completely different area.

The talks were bolstered by the desire to agree on a text before the Brussels European Council next week and before British domestic politics threw a grenade into the negotiations.

Mr Johnson has decided to move forward next week with ‘safety net’ legislation aimed at keeping a free border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in the event of no ‘commercial agreement.

Both the Home Market Bill and the Taxation Bill will give ministers the power to override the UK’s Withdrawal Treaty with the EU, concluded last year, in violation of international law .

The prospect of MEPs voting to violate an EU treaty while negotiators simultaneously attempt to agree on a new one has thrilled both sides.

Mr Michel stressed on Friday that Britain must fully respect its divorce deal with the EU for any deal on future relations to be workable.

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