France tells UK to stop ‘playing games’ as Brexit talks reach crunch time

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned that the possibility of a 'no deal' Brexit was "very real" and told the UK the time for "playing games" was over.

France tells UK to stop 'playing games' as Brexit talks reach crunch time
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) gesture to French Foreign Secretary Jean Yves Le Dorian (R) on Horse Guards Parade in London. AFP

“As things currently stand, the hypothesis of a 'no deal' is a very real one, and also one that is unfortunately very likely today,” Le Drian told the foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly.

He took an apparent swipe at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been accused by critics of posturing and even lying to push Brexit.

“One knows the British are skilled at tactics,” Le Drian said. “But even if the British are skilled tacticians, now is not the time for tactics. We have finished playing games, we have reached the due date,” he said.

“That is to say that between October 15 and mid-November, everything should be played out,” he said. “We are prepared for all eventualities.”

The 27 EU leaders are to meet in Brussels on Thursday, the date that Johnson has set as the deadline for a breakthrough. 

On September 7, Johnson said “there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point” and warned that he would pull the plug on talks. 

The EU has never recognised the ultimatum, but EU negotiator Michel Barnier has previously warned that if there is no outline of a deal before the end of October then it would be procedurally difficult for member states and the European Parliament to approve it this year.

“The date of October 15, it's Prime Minister Boris Johnson who announced that, it is not the position of the European Council which is meeting on Thursday and Friday,” Le Drian said.

Johnson will talk to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, ahead of the summit.

Britain left the European Union on January 31 and it will leave the EU single market and customs union on December 31 after an 11-month transition period.

If there is no negotiated trade agreement between the former partners, Britain's commerce with the continent will revert to the bare bones of WTO rules — which could cause great economic and transport disruption.

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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.