France warns UK of bitter trade negotiations

British Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service Mark Sedwill (L), and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (R) during a Panel Discussion 'Eurovision Contest: A Europe That Projects' at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany, 16 February 2020. EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK

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France has warned Britain to expect a bruising battle with the EU in post-Brexit trade negotiations.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made clear at a conference in Munich that Brussels would defend its interests when talks begin next month.

He predicted the two sides would “rip each other apart” as they strove for advantage in the negotiations.

The UK government said it wanted a deal based on “friendly co-operation between sovereign equals”.

Speaking at a security conference in Munich on Sunday, Mr Le Drian said it would be tough for the UK to achieve its aim of agreeing a free trade deal by the end of the year, with the two sides far apart on a range of issues.

He said: “I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart.

“But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.”

Mr Le Drian, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, is the latest senior EU figure to warn that the negotiations will be difficult.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and chief negotiator Michel Barnier have both cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s aim to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.

Read more via BBC

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