France: Renegotiation Of Britain’s Brexit Withdrawal Not Possible — Britain Must Leave the EU in October

TOPSHOT - A trompe l'oeil shows two workers painting the European Union flag on the side of a building in the French capital Paris on May 23, 2019. - Europe kicked off voting across the continent in a contest in which rising populist forces are hoping to make significant gains, …
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JOE MARKHAM

A representative of the French Government has said that the EU is not prepared to re-open discussions on the terms of Britain’s EU withdrawal agreement, and that without a distinct change in policy such as the promise of a new referendum Britain must prepare to leave the EU on October 31st.

Amelie De Montchalin, France’s minister for European Affairs said “We consider it is up to Britain to decide how it wants to proceed. The exit agreement was not negotiated against the British; negotiators on both sides tried, painstakingly, to find the best solution for all concerned.”

“If Britain does want to leave, and if it wants to leave in an orderly fashion, then this is the way it must do it,” she added.

The remarks were possibly meant as a warning to candidates running to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and hence Prime Minister. Several of the candidates have stated openly that they would intend to try to re-open negotiations with the EU in order to secure better terms of withdrawal as part of their leadership pitch.

One such candidate is Michael Gove, who announced that he would be prepared to extend Brexit even beyond October 31st in order to get a better deal.

Other candidates looking to secure new terms include the former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and race frontrunner, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

However, De Montchalin said that the only way an extension would be granted was if there were to be a “profound change” in Britain’s Brexit policy, such as a second referendum.

“As President Macron has said, if there is a totally new political line in Britain, the Europeans would be prepared to reconsider,” she said. This remark, along with previous comments from Brussels may refer to a second referendum or fresh elections in Britain to change the government.

“But for now, 31 October is the final deadline”, she said. A no-deal Brexit was “not what France wants”, De Montchalin added, “but we are prepared for it, and so it is now a realistic option.”

It was announced yesterday that Boris Johnson, currently the favourite to win the leadership contest, would consider withholding the £39 billion ‘Brexit divorce bill’ from the EU until and unless better terms were agreed, including the removal of the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’, intended to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

However, both French President Emmanuel Macron and Senior Europhile MEP Guy Verhofstadt spoke out against the proposal. Verhofstadt said “Boris Johnson threatens not to pay the Brexit bill. This would not only hurt the UK’s credibility as an international partner, but it is absolutely unacceptable and contradicts what almost every lawyer in the UK thinks about it.” Meanwhile, Macron echoed his criticism, saying the refusal to pay would be illegal. This is a position that has been challenged by British lawyers.

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