In a rhetorical flourish, Jean-Yves Le Drian, predicted the two sides would “rip each other apart” in the quest for negotiating advantage.
Speaking at a security conference in Munich yesterday, Le Drians’s colourful language contrasts sharply with the UK government’s stated view that the negotiations will be conducted on “friendly co-operation between sovereign equals” basis, Presstv Reported.
But the French foreign minister has effectively poured cold water on the British government’s cosy assumptions by stating that it would be “tough” for the UK to secure a free trade deal by the end of the year.
Le Drian’s frank assessment comes ahead of highly anticipated disclosures of the UK’s negotiation objectives by Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost.
As head of Taskforce Europe (responsible for negotiating the UK’s future relationship with the EU), Frost is expected to deliver a speech in Brussels later.
A former senior British diplomat, Frost is expected to try to smooth over emerging sharp differences between the two sides.
Before Le Drian’s intervention, the European Parliament requested the UK to follow EU rules in a diverse range of sectors, from chemicals regulation to food labelling, as a part of a complex process colourfully described as “dynamic alignment”.
But the British government has effectively ruled out close regulatory alignment, particularly on the sensitive issue of fishing rights. The EU is adamant that it must continue to have access to UK waters as part of a comprehensive trade agreement.
For his part, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has stated that the UK will act as an “independent coastal state”, effectively ruling out EU access to British waters.