France could veto bad Brexit deal, Macron ally warns

France could wield its veto to kill a Brexit deal brought back from London by the EU’s chief negotiator, the country’s minister for European affairs has warned.

With the negotiations hitting troubled waters at the 11th hour, Clément Beaune, a close ally of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said his country could act unilaterally if the terms were not right.

UK government sources had claimed on Thursday evening that the Brexit negotiations had taken a sudden step backwards after furious French lobbying pushed the EU to make late demands.

The apparent hardening of the EU position was said to have destabilised the protracted talks, peeling back progress made over the previous 24 hours. Both sides believe Sunday evening or Monday morning is the deadline for the year-long negotiation.

Beaune said his government was closely monitoring developments in London, where negotiators have been working night and day to find common ground and would scrutinise any agreement.

He said: “This [no deal] risk exists. We mustn’t hide it because there are businesses, our fishermen, citizens who need to know and so we must prepare for a risk of no deal. That’s to say on 31 December there will be no more free circulation, and free access to the UK market and vice versa.

“But it’s not what we want and the negotiations are still going on with Michel Barnier, who is in London at the moment. I still hope we can have a deal but I also say to our fishermen, to our producers, to our citizens, that we won’t accept a bad deal.”

He added: “I think it’s also the case for our partners that if there were a deal that isn’t good, which in our evaluation doesn’t correspond to those interests, we will oppose it.

“Yes, each country has a veto, so it’s possible. France like all its partners has the means of a veto. We must make our own evaluation of course of this deal, that’s normal. We owe that to the French people, we owe it to our fishermen, and to other economic sectors.

“I want to believe we will have a good deal, but to get a good deal you know it’s better to be frank, and to say our interests We have been very clear, sometimes the Brits a little less so, about our interests.”

Timeline

From Brefusal to Brexit: a history of Britain in the EU

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After 47 years and 30 days it was all over. As the clock struck 11pm on 31 January 2020, the UK was officially divorced from the EU and began trying to carve out a new global role as a sovereign nation. It was a union that got off to a tricky start and continued to be marked by the UK’s sometimes conflicted relationship with its neighbours.

1961

The French president, Charles de Gaulle, vetoes Britain’s entry to EEC, accusing the UK of a “deep-seated hostility” towards the European project.

1973

With Sir Edward Heath having signed the accession treaty the previous year, the UK enters the EEC in an official ceremony complete with a torch-lit rally, dickie-bowed officials and a procession of political leaders, including former prime ministers Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home.

1975

Referendum

The UK decides to stay in the common market after 67% voted “yes”. Margaret Thatcher, later to be leader of the Conservative party, campaigned to remain.

1984

‘Give us our money back’

Margaret Thatcher negotiated what became known as the UK rebate with other EU members after the “iron lady” marched into the former French royal palace at Fontainebleau to demand “our own money back” claiming for every £2 contributed we get only £1 back” despite being one of the “three poorer” members of the community.

It was a move that sowed the seeds of Tory Euroscepticism that was to later cause the Brexit schism in the party. 

1988

The Bruges speech

Thatcher served notice on the EU community in a defining moment in EU politics in which she questioned the expansionist plans of Jacques Delors, who had remarked that 80% of all decisions on economic and social policy would be made by the European Community within 10 years with a European government in “embryo”. That was a bridge too far for Thatcher.

1989

The cold war ends

Collapse of Berlin wall and fall of communism in eastern Europe, which would later lead to expansion of EU.

1990

‘No, no, no’

Divisions between the UK and the EU deepened with Thatcher telling the Commons in an infamous speech it was ‘no, no, no’ to what she saw as Delors’ continued power grab. Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper ratchets up its opposition to Europe with a two-fingered “Up yours Delors” front page.

1992

Black Wednesday

A collapse in the pound forced prime minister John Major and the then chancellor Norman Lamont to pull the UK out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism.

1993

The single market

On 1 January, customs checks and duties were removed across the bloc. Thatcher hailed the vision of “a single market without barriers – visible or invisible – giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people”.

1993

Maastricht treaty

Tory rebels vote against the treaty that paved the way for the creation of the European Union. John Major won the vote the following day in a pyrrhic victory. 

1997

Repairing the relationship

Tony Blair patches up the relationship. Signs up to social charter and workers’ rights.

31 January 1999

Nigel Farage elected an MEP and immediately goes on the offensive in Brussels. “Our interests are best served by not being a member of this club,” he said in his maiden speech. “The level playing field is about as level as the decks of the Titanic after it hit an iceberg.”

2003

Chancellor Gordon Brown decides the UK will not join the euro.

2004

EU enlarges to to include eight countries of the former eastern bloc including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

2007

EU expands again, allowing Romania and Bulgaria into the club.

2015

Migrant crisis

Anti-immigration hysteria seems to take hold with references to “cockroches” by Katie Hopkins in the Sun and tabloid headlines such as “How many more can we take?” and “Calais crisis: send in the dogs”.

February 2016

David Cameron returns from Brussels with an EU reform package – but it isn’t enough to appease the Eurosceptic wing of his own party

June 2016

Brexit referendum

The UK votes to leave the European Union, triggering David Cameron’s resignation and paving the way for Theresa May to become prime minister

January 2020

Britain leaves the EU

After years of parliamentary impasse during Theresa May’s attempt to get a deal agreed, the UK leaves the EU.

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The talks remain focused on the level of access given to the European fishing fleet to British waters at the end of the year and the so-called level playing field provisions.

The EU is seeking assurances in a deal that the UK will not be able to distort trade through subsidies or by undercutting on environmental, labour and social standards.

UK sources claimed the EU had started pushing for further and harder assurances over the role of a domestic regulator of subsidies, or state aid, after the transition period, a claim dismissed outright by Brussels.

“We don’t see any breakdown or real trouble beyond the already slow grind of this negotiation,” one EU source said on Friday. “It centres on domestic enforcement of state aid regulations be they ex ante [prior] or ex post [after a subsidy is granted].”

The Guardian

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