France rejects more Brexit talks
France has warned the two UK prime ministerial candidates that the Brexit agreement is not up for renegotiation, echoing warnings from the European Commission.
Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson is the favourite against Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a run-off vote for the tiny electorate of Conservative members.
Both said they wanted to renegotiate the deal Prime Minister Theresa May spent two years agreeing with Brussels but which was rejected three times by MPs, partly because it offers none of the benefits promised during the 2016 referendum campaign.
“The cost of uncertainty is high – in the economy in general, in industry, in the financial sector, among fishermen on both sides of the channel who don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. I think there are a certain number of governments, who see the cost of that,” French Europe minister Amelie de Montchalin told the media.
“If the United Kingdom wants to leave the union and to leave in an orderly fashion, the deal on the table is the deal we negotiated over two years.”
The minister said Brexit was “a British issue for the British to decide”, although it is the Northern Irish issue that is most intractable.
“To reopen the withdrawal agreement, the position of the [European] Council is very clear, it’s: ‘no’,” she said, echoing remarks by council president Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Johnson was again at the centre of controversy this week when it was revealed video of him calling the French people “turds” while he was foreign secretary was cut from a BBC documentary at the request of his office.
The comments purportedly referred to Paris’ Brexit stance but Johnson said he had “no recollection” of the incident.
“I prefer not to comment on words I don’t understand because there were not part of the vocabulary I learned in school,” De Montchalin said.
She said Europe would work “with whichever prime minister is chosen by British institutions”, although the decision is actually left to the narrow Tory membership, which includes many former UKIP activists.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was still time to stop Brexit through a people’s vote.
Sturgeon issued a joint statement with Wales’ leader Mark Drakeford expressing alarm at “increased hard-line rhetoric about a no-deal Brexit”.
The Scottish National Party leader said there was now a “real danger” of a “crash out” becoming “inevitable” and it was “futile” to waste time trying to re-negotiation with Brussels.
“I think there’s a real danger right now, the positioning of the contenders for leadership of Tory Party starts to make no deal inevitable,” she said.
“I think there’s an alternative to no deal, which is no Brexit through a second referendum, but there’s a danger we end up on a path to no deal that’s very difficult to stop and that is of significant concern.”
The UK is home to a large French community. Picture credit: Eurasia Times