Junior European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin took a shot at Prime Minister Boris Johnson over post-Brexit trade talks with Brussels, claiming the UK “needs” the deal more than the EU, reports Reuters.
Appearing on Europe 1 radio, the French official was responding to a question: whether she could rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Referencing the economic fallout sustained by countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the minister said:
"I am not ruling out anything… Those who need a deal the most are the British. They cannot withstand a second shock after the epidemic. They wouldn't have access to the security net that is Europe, they wouldn't have access to the stimulus fund," said Amelie de Montchalin.
Earlier in the week, a leaked paper from Berlin seemed to imply that Germany was urging Brussels to gear up for Brexit “no-deal 2.0”.
The document cited by Reuters suggests that Berlin had cautioned EU member states against complying with British plans for trade and security deals “at any price”.
The paper allegedly singled out key talks on a deal as likely to occur in September.
Trade Talks Impasse
With the deadline to chart the UK’s future relationship with Brussels drawing nearer, several rounds of video conferencing talks, necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic-related protocols have achieved limited progress.
After a video meeting on 15 June between Boris Johnson and EU leaders including Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, in an effort to break the impasse, the two sides voiced their commitment to “intensify” talks in July and if possible, reach “an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement”.
Among the most contentious issues plaguing negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union are an agreement on a “level playing field” conditions, demanded by Brussels, in order to ensure fair competition between British and EU businesses, as well as rights to fish in UK waters.
European Council president Charles Michel underscored that a “broad and ambitious” agreement was in both sides' interests. However, the official emphasised that securing a level playing field, with the UK accepting EU standards on food and the environment, was “essential”.
Brussels will not accept a “pig in a poke”, said Michel.
Other stumbling blocks include police and justice cooperation issues.
Reports have been emerging citing British Lords allegedly warning that the country could lose access to Europe's real-time criminal database unless it reaches a comprehensive Brexit deal with Brussels on security and justice.
Britain left the European Union on 31 January, with talks on its future relations with the European bloc faltering and negligible progress achieved.
Despite both Johnson and EU leaders saying a deal is achievable, the sides acknowledge that time is fast running out and the prospect of no-deal cannot be excluded.
The transition period, during which Britain remains in the EU's customs union and single market, is set to expire on 31 December, with the UK Prime Minister emphatically ruling out an extension.
Boris Johnson said after Monday’s online meeting he believes there is a “very good” chance of a settlement “provided we really focus now and get on and do it”.
The Prime Minister added procrastination until autumn could not be allowed, “as perhaps in Brussels they would like”.
“We cannot leave the EU and stay somehow controlled by EU law,” said Johnson.