French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is “not sure” a UK-EU trade deal will be struck by 31 December, the end of the Brexit transition period.
Mr Macron said negotiations starting in March will be “tense”, with fishing rights a key point of contention.
It comes as the UK government signalled it would publish its mandate for the trade deal later this week.
In the document, ministers are expected to reiterate their desire for a Canada-style deal with few tariffs on goods.
While a trade deal is hammered out with the EU, the UK is following the majority of the bloc’s rules.
The UK is in this transition period until 31 December following its departure from the EU on 31 January.
“I am not sure that an agreement will be reached between now and the end of the year,” Mr Macron said at a meeting with fishermen in Paris on Saturday.
“Anyway, it is going to become more tense because [the British] are very hard.”
Mr Macron also said fishing rights could be a sticking point in negotiations.
The UK has said it will consider a deal on fisheries but it must be based on the notion that “British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats”.
Mr Macron’s comments come as the UK government signalled it would publish detailed demands for a trade deal.
The mandate is due to be signed off on Tuesday and will be published online and in Parliament on Thursday
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