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EUROPEAN UNION

We’re going to ‘rip each other apart’: France warns of tough Brexit negotiations

France on Sunday warned Britain to expect a bitter, bloody battle in Brexit trade talks with the EU, saying the two sides would "rip each other apart".

We're going to 'rip each other apart': France warns of tough Brexit negotiations
Photo: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

Negotiations for a deal on future EU-UK relations are not due to start until next month, but London and Brussels have already clashed over rules for British financial firms' access to the EU after Brexit.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said it would be tough to achieve Britain's aim of agreeing a free trade deal by the end of the year, with the two sides far apart on a range of issues.

“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,” Le Drian said at the Munich Security Conference.

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

The Local's view: Most Brits in Europe didn't ask for Brexit, but now we have to make it work

Britain formally left the EU two weeks ago but still trades like a member under a transition period ticking down to the end of this year.

The remaining 27 EU states are currently drawing up their mandate for the talks on the future relationship, with France in particular pushing for a strong stance, notably on the vexed question of fishing.

READ: 'It's as if I'm invisible – a non person' Brits in France share their Brexit day heartbreak

France and several other countries want to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while London wants full autonomy and limited access for European fishermen. 

“Let's hope the talks are done as quickly as possible, but there are a lot of issues and some difficult points to deal with,” said Le Drian, who is from the important French fishing region of Brittany.

The bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU's top priorities are fishing, security and maintaining fair trading conditions for European companies.

In a sign of the likely bruising exchanges ahead, Barnier this week told London not to kid itself about EU access for its prized financial services sector.

Barnier firmly rejected a British suggestion that City of London companies could be given broad, permanent access to EU markets without conditions.

Before the January 31 exit from the EU, Britain said it wanted an ambitious and comprehensive accord with the European bloc.

But since then, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has dialled back, signalling it is willing to accept trade friction in return for sovereignty.

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POLITICS

British PM Boris Johnson’s dad becomes French

The Brexit-supporting father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acquired French citizenship, a French justice ministry source told AFP.

British PM Boris Johnson's dad becomes French

A Conservative who once worked for the European Commission in Brussels, Stanley Johnson opposed Brexit at first but swung behind the EU departure project following 2016’s narrow referendum vote that was championed by his son.

The elder Johnson’s ties to France are through his French mother, and he speaks the language.

The 81-year-old filed his citizenship application at the French consulate in London in November last year, with a six-month deadline for the justice ministry to object elapsing on Wednesday.

“Based on the facts in his application, and without a refusal by the justice minister, Mr Stanley Johnson acquired French nationality on May 18 2022,” the ministry told AFP.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

“This decision concerns only Mr Stanley Johnson and does not extend to his descendants,” it added.

The most common ways of acquiring French nationality are through residency in the country or marriage to a French citizen.

However it is possible to become French through family connections, although France accepts only a French parent – not a grandparent like Ireland or a great-grandparent like Italy – in these types of application.

READ ALSO How to obtain French citizenship through ancestry

French law normally prevents children of its citizens from claiming nationality if their family has been abroad for more than 50 years without making use of their rights.

But their applications can still be considered if they can prove “concrete ties of a cultural, professional, economic or family nature” with France — a clause Stanley invoked in his application.

“I’ll always be European, that’s for sure,” Stanley Johnson told RTL radio in French in a December 2020 interview.

He had come under fire at home for his plans, announced at the same time most Britons were losing the right to travel freely across the European Union as a post-Brexit “transition period” ended.

“It’s not a question of becoming French. If I understand correctly I am French! My mother was born in France, her mother was completely French as was her grandfather,” Stanley said.

“For me it’s a question of obtaining what I already have and I am very happy about that,” he added.

Around 3,100 British people acquired French nationality in 2020, according to the latest figures available from EU statistics agency Eurostat, making France the second most popular choice for acquiring European citizenship, after Germany.

Stanley Johnson has become a public figure in Britain following his son’s political rise, appearing on a celebrity reality TV show in 2017 and appearing regularly in the media.

His ex-wife Charlotte Fawcett — Boris’s mother — told a biographer recently that Stanley had beaten her many times, breaking her nose on one occasion.

Last year two women, a Conservative MP and a journalist, accused him of groping or touching them inappropriately.

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