France lashes out as Boris issues new Brexit threat – ‘British don’t seem to understand’

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The Prime Minister has infuriated senior EU figures after it was reported the Government is set to table new legislation, which threatens to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels. Downing Street is insisting new Brexit legislation is needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a deal with the EU. Mr Johnson’s spokesman said the Government is proposing “limited clarifications” to the law to ensure ministers can preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement in the event of no deal outcome between the two sides.

The Prime Minister has piled further pressure onto the EU by insisting there needs to be an agreement in place by October 15 if it is to be in full force before the end of the transition period on December 31.

But France has warned the UK has to “respect the rules of the common market” if a deal is to be agreed, accusing the British negotiators of not fully compromising in current trade talks.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told radio station France Inter: “The negotiating mandate has been validated by the 27 EU countries, on the conditions of relations, in particular, economic relations between the United Kingdom and Europe from January 1 next year.

“This mandate is not linked to Michel Barnier. It is linked to the commitment of 27 countries. The British do not seem to understand that if they want access to the European market, they must respect the rules of the common market.

“If they want to negotiate a good agreement, we must not only talk about the subjects that interest them, but we must talk about the global subjects of the future relationship.

“Right now, that’s not happening.”

The French Foreign Minister added negotiations have now reached an “urgent” stage and that the “countdown has begun”.

He added France would prefer for the two sides to reach an agreement, but warned several red lines, including fisheries, first need to be discussed in detail to avoid a no deal outcome.

Mr Le Drian said: “There are only two months left, it’s urgent, the countdown has begun.

“We prefer to reach an agreement, but we have to discuss the whole package, including fisheries, to avoid a no-deal.”

The comments from the Foreign Minister came after Mr Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron held an urgent phone call to agree on the “importance of making progress this month”.

Following the phone call, Mr Macron said he had enjoyed a “very good exchange” with Mr Johnson on a number of topics, including Brexit.

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The Prime Minister’s spokesman had earlier insisted the Government was not looking to backtrack on previous commitments made in the Withdrawal Agreement.

He said: “We are fully committed to implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and we have already taken many practical steps to do.”

The spokesman said the Prime Minister has made clear the need for significant progress this week when talks on a free trade deal resume in London.

“We can’t be in the same position as we are now by the end of the upcoming negotiating round if we are going to reach an agreement in the time available.

“As the Prime Minister is setting out today, there needs to be an agreement by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it is going to be in force by the end of the year.

“Reaching a deal at the eleventh hour is not an option.”

Mr Johnson had said in an earlier statement he would not compromise on the “fundamentals” of what made Britain an independent nation.

He also insisted a no deal would still be a “good outcome for the UK”.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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