SHARE
COPY LINK

BREXIT

Brexit on the menu when May dines with Macron on Friday

British Prime Minister Theresa May heads to President Emmanuel Macron's "summer Elysee Palace" on the Mediterranean coast on Friday, seeking to soften resistance to a Brexit plan which has upended her government while failing to win over sceptical EU negotiators.

Brexit on the menu when May dines with Macron on Friday

She and Macron will hold an “informal” two-hour meeting at Bregancon, a 17th-century fort long favoured by French presidents as a summer retreat.

“The plan was to go to Bregancon, which is to be a summer residence but also a place for working (see pic below), and since May was finishing her vacation in Italy we proposed hosting her here,” a source at the Elysée said.

May is going to lay out “London's position on the Brexit talks and its future relations with the EU,” the source said. “It will be the occasion to clarify this proposal and discuss the political context.”

There will be no press statement afterwards, because “there is absolutely no intention to speak in place of Michel Barnier,” the EU's designated Brexit negotiator, the source added.

(The presidential retreat of Bregancon, on a tiny island just ff the south coast of France. AFP)

Pressure is growing on May to win allies on the continent after her “Chequers plan” prompted two top ministers to resign in protest last month.

The prime minister has just a few months before an agreement on Britain's divorce from the EU — set for March 29, 2019 — must be forged in principle ahead of a European summit in mid-October.

Barnier has already shot down May's proposed solution to keeping the border between the UK and EU member Ireland open without a “hard border”.

Under May's proposal a dual system of taxation would be introduced which would see taxes levied by each side of the Irish border for the benefit of the other.



Flexibility?

European leaders have steadfastly voiced support for Barnier, who wrote in a piece published in French and German newspapers Thursday that Britain and the EU “are 80 percent in agreement on an exit deal.”

“But 80 percent is not 100 percent,” he warned. “Let's be frank, the United Kingdom, having decided to leave the single market, cannot be as economically close as the rest of the EU.”

France is seen as taking a particularly hard line in the Brexit negotiations, especially on financial services, with Paris already expecting to get about 3,500 new banking jobs as leading players move operations out of London.

Companies in other sectors have also warned they might move operations out of Britain, which could prove a boon for economies on the continent.

Barnier has maintained that any Brexit accord “must conform with the economic interests of the 27 remaining EU members, and the president has always supported this as well”, the source in Macron's office said.

But Macron also wants to avoid a “messy divorce”, which Britain's foreign minister Jeremy Hunt has warned will happen in case of a “no-deal exit”.

“France and Germany have to send a strong signal to the Commission that we need to negotiate a pragmatic and sensible outcome that protects jobs on both sides of the Channel,” Hunt said in a British press interview before visiting Paris and Vienna this week.

The British charm offensive continued Thursday, when Brexit minister Dominic Raab said he held “constructive” talks with France's Europe Minister 
Nathalie Loiseau in Paris, saying they had discussed “the progress of negotiations with Michel Barnier.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

SHOW COMMENTS