The UK’s Brexit negotiator will use a trip to Brussels to set out British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for a trade deal with the EU, as France warned the two sides would “rip each other apart”.
Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser David Frost will spell out the UK’s demands in a speech tonight, after French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian predicted a bruising battle on a post-Brexit deal.
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, he made clear that Brussels will defend its interests when negotiations begin next month.
“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,” he said.
“But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.”
Mr Le Drian, a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, is the latest senior EU figure to warn that the negotiations will be difficult.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and chief negotiator Michel Barnier have both cast doubt on Mr Johnson’s aim to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year when the Brexit transition period runs out.
The EU has repeatedly warned Britain cannot expect to enjoy continued “high-quality” market access if it insists on diverging from EU social and environmental standards.
There is expected to be a particularly tough fight over fishing rights, with the EU insisting continued access to UK waters must form part of any agreement.
Mr Johnson, in turn, has said the UK will act as an “independent coastal state” taking control of its own fisheries.
A Number 10 spokesman said Mr Frost “will reflect on the institution of the EU and look towards the new relationship we are seeking to build”.
The spokesman added: “We want a relationship based on friendly co-operation between sovereign equals,” and “we are not asking for anything special or bespoke”.
He said: “We are seeking a deal that the EU has struck previously with other countries such as Canada.”
Downing Street said it was still seeking “quota-free, tariff-free” arrangements – even though Canada’s deal does not eliminate all tariffs and quotas.