Brexit: as long as there’s hope we’ll continue to negotiate a deal - Minister
European affairs – Brexit/European Union/recovery plan/climate/Turkey – Interview given by M. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for Europe, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to RTL (excerpts)
Paris, 11 December 2020
Q. – Are we heading straight towards failure, between London and Europe, on the future trading relationship between the two sides? These post-Brexit negotiations have been deadlocked for days, weeks, months; the deadline is Sunday evening. Be honest, do you think we’re heading towards a no-deal?
THE MINISTER – Listen, to be honest, we’re giving ourselves another chance to get an agreement, but it’s very difficult. I want to say two things. Firstly, we won’t accept – as we’ve said repeatedly – an agreement on bad terms, for fisheries or fishermen, for European or French businesses, in order to ensure there’s no uneven playing field between the UK and Europe. We won’t accept that.
Q. – Does that mean it’s still being negotiated this evening?
THE MINISTER – It’s still being negotiated, it probably still will be this weekend. So we’re giving ourselves a chance, because it’s better to get a good agreement.
Q. – The European Commission President was talking at midday today about weak hope of an agreement, as was Boris Johnson. In diplomatic speak, doesn’t this mean there’s a 95% chance it will collapse?
THE MINISTER – No, I don’t want to give percentages, because as long as there’s hope we’ll continue. We’ve continued for years, because it’s in our collective interest to get a good deal. Yet once again, our interests and our priorities are clear, and we won’t sacrifice them, either fisheries or the level playing field between the UK and us.
Q. – If it fails, who will be the big loser – Europe or the other side of the Channel?
THE MINISTER – Firstly, the UK – much more than us. To give you a rough idea, the British market is eight times smaller than the European market. So we’re strong. Now, if there’s no deal it’s difficult. So we’re preparing for every scenario. We’ve made preparations for customs checks and for helping sectors which might be in difficulty due to Brexit. I also want to say that, whatever happens, deal or no deal, there are changes occurring on 1 January, a number of checks on goods in particular, so at any rate businesses, for example, must prepare. (...)./.