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French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel remain at logger-heads over what stance to take on the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union. Showdown talks between UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier have taken place this week ahead of the crucial EU summit on Thursday.
As talks reach their climax, Mujtaba Rahman, the head of Europe at Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm, has claimed a “tug-of-war” continues to take place between Berlin and Paris.
Writing for Politico Mr Rahman, who previously worked at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, said: “The two capitals have subtle, but real differences over the shape of the UK’s future partnership.
“If there is to be a Brexit trade deal, the submerged rocks of those differences will have to be navigated.”
The EU expert explains Germany, which has the largest economy in the EU, has taken a softer tone to negotiations, while France which has less to lose in a no deal outcome, has taken a more aggressive approach.
Mr Rahman says the French Government believe the UK is approaching trade talks from a “position of weakness” which has underpinned its tough stance on areas such as fishing.
Mr Rahman adds Mrs Merkel, who currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, faces a difficult balancing act of “seeking a deal while maintaining EU unity”.
Following more than seven months on trade talks, outstanding issues over fisheries, state aid and governance remain.
Ahead of the EU Council summit tomorrow, Mrs Merkel called on the EU to be realistic during a meeting with European mayors.
The German Chancellor said: “We are going to continue to stand together in these withdrawal talks.
“But we also have to take into account the reality: an agreement has to be in the interests of both parties, in British interests as well as the interests of the 27-member EU.”
Boris Johnson had previously set the EU a deadline of October 15 in order to reach a deal before the formal end of the transition period on December 31.
Later this evening, the Prime Minister will hold a video call with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.
Downing Street has confirmed progress has been made in some areas but an agreement on fishing remains the biggest obstacle.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences with fisheries being the starkest.
“We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.
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“The Prime Minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.
“He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team.
“I cannot prejudge what that decision will be.”
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