Call Britain’s bluff! ‘Worried’ French politician hopes Boris’s Brexit plan is ‘tactic’

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France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs admitted he is “worried” about whether there will be a post-Brexit deal between the UK and the EU. But Clément Beaune insisted an agreement could still be struck.

He said: “No agreement at the end of the year, that means customs duties, which is not good news for fishermen or tourism in France.

“But we are preparing for it, just in case, with support measures, particularly for fishing.”

The Prime Minister sparked controversy this week with his plan to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The French politician said he hopes the move was a “tactic”.

He told France Inter: “If he wants to leave Europe without a deal, that’s a bad thing, but he has to tell us.

“But I hope it is a tactic and it will stop.”

Mr Beaune insisted a bad deal would be “much worse” than no agreement.

His comments come as the EU is demanding Britain abandons the UK Internal Market Bill despite Mr Johnson agreeing to give MPs a vote before the Government can use powers which would breach the divorce deal struck with the bloc last year.

Brussels wants the clauses to be withdrawn from the controversial legislation.

Eric Mamer, chief spokesman for the European Commission, said: “We have as you know set out a position extremely clearly, it is in our statement, and it relates to those clauses being withdrawn from the law.

“That position has not changed and we have asked the UK to do this at the earliest possible convenience, and by the end of September at the latest. That has not changed.”

Mr Mamer also insisted the EU negotiates in “good faith” after the Prime Minister told MPs he did not believe they had in Brexit talks.

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He said: “We have a habit of not commenting on comments by third parties.

“But what I can say more generally is that I can point to our hundreds – literally hundreds – of international agreements signed with very, very different third parties of all kinds.

“And I think that they testify to – as I think you say in English – a rather splendid track record when it comes to carrying out negotiations in good faith, and indeed even concluding them.

“So what I would simply do is ask you to go and talk to those third parties with whom we have signed these agreements and further they will testify to the quality of our negotiation.

“And I think that Michel Barnier showed in the context of the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement that even on extremely complex and politically sensitive issues the Commission and indeed the EU negotiate in perfectly good faith.”

Chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier were due to meet for informal talks this week.

With just months to go until the transition period ends, a major breakthrough is needed for the two sides to finally reach a post-Brexit deal.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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