French panic exposed: Macron’s minister blows top over Brexit as Boris refuses to crumble

Brexit: Nick Robinson grills French MEP on negotiation ‘fears’

Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister for Economic Affairs, raged “Brexit is madness” as London and Brussels remain locked in talks in a last-ditch attempt to agree to a trade deal before the transition period deadline expires on December 31. The minister used a phrase from the late author John le Carré to brand the UK’s departure from the bloc as a “political, economic and historical folly”. When asked during an interview with France Info TV about the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit, Le Maire bluntly replied: “The big Brexit losers will be the British.”

The French minister also claimed Brexit would only see the country’s economy drop by 0.1 percent but warned Britain would experience a much bigger slump.

This is the latest in a string of attacks from Mr Le Maire directed at Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

During the early moments of trade talks between the two sides, he had warned EU member states not to make “any further concessions” in negotiations as this would have a devastating impact on unity in the bloc.

In 2018, he also launched a scathing attack against Mr Johnson and Brexiteers, accusing those of pushing the case for the UK’s exit from the EU of hiding the real impact of it from the public.

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London and Brussels have been locked in post-Brexit trade talks since March after the UK left the EU on January 31, leaving it tied to rules on the Customs Union and Single Market until the transition period deadline ends in just over two weeks.

But over recent weeks, President Macron’s Government has been increasingly vocal in proceedings, particularly around the issue of fisheries, which remains a major stumbling block in the current trade negotiations.

He has piled pressure on both the UK and EU to agree a deal that would enable continued access to British coastal waters for French fishermen, even threatening to veto any trade deal that does not adhere to these red lines.

But Downing Street has stood firm against these demands, with House of Lords peer and former conservative leader Lord Howard of Rising warning Mr Macron must stop “acting as if France has a God-given right of access to the British fish in British waters”.

Asked during an urgent question from Labour’s shadow minister Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town for an update on the trade talks between the two sides, Cabinet Office minister Lord True told peers: “Discussions are continuing and they are continuing as we are enjoying our session here today.”

Responding to the minister, Lord Howard said: “Would the noble Lord the Minister agree there is a strong element of Alice in Wonderland permeating our negotiations with the European Union?

“Normally when two parties are negotiating a transaction from which both sides benefit, the side with the most to gain customarily makes the concessions and is the party making the greatest effort to achieve a satisfactory conclusion.

“The EU is making a £90 billion profit from trading with the United Kingdom each year.

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“Will the noble Lord minister agree that their posturing and treatment of the United Kingdom as a colony is out of place.

“An example of this is Monsieur Macron acting as if France has a God-given right of access to the British fish in British waters.”

On Wednesday morning, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed progress had been made in trade talks but that it was not yet clear if an agreement could be struck.

She told the European Parliament: “I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not, but I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now.

The path may be very narrow but it is there.

“We have found a way forward on most issues but two issues still remain outstanding: the level playing field and fisheries.

“Issues linked to governance now have largely been resolved. The next days are going to be decisive.”

But a UK official poured cold water on the optimism from Ms von der Leyen and said: “We’ve made some progress, but we are still very far apart in key areas. Still not there.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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