PARIS (Reuters) – A senior French official said on Friday she could not rule out the European Union’s trade talks with departed ex-member Britain ending without a deal though it was in the British interest to reach one.
“I am not ruling out anything,” Junior European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin told Europe 1 radio, when asked if she could rule out a no-deal Brexit.
“Those who need a deal the most are the British. They cannot withstand a second shock after the epidemic. They wouldn’t have access to the security net that is Europe, they wouldn’t have access to the stimulus fund,” she added, alluding to the economic hit to European states caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told visiting French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday that talks on a post-Brexit deal cannot drag on into the autumn.
Montchalin said: “We will not yield to this deadline pressure, this final sprint that Britain want to impose on us in the hope we will cave in. We do not want a deal for the sake of having a deal but we want a balanced deal.”
Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31 but talks on a future relations have so far made little progress. Johnson and EU leaders say a deal is achievable, but both sides say time is running out and the prospect of no-deal remains.
An internal document obtained by Reuters this week showed the German government is urging other EU states to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, casting doubt on Johnson’s public optimism about chances of an early agreement on future ties.
A transition period during which Britain remains in the EU’s customs union and single market expires on Dec. 31 and Johnson has ruled out extending it.
Montchalin was speaking as EU leaders hope to unite behind an unprecedented stimulus to inject billions of euros into their coronavirus-ravaged economies at a teleconference meeting on Friday.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
FILE PHOTO: French Junior Minister for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin arrives at a General Affairs Councilc meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 25, 2020. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS