June 28, 2019 / 5:42 PM / 4 months ago

It's time to focus on future relationship, French minister tells Britain

PARIS (Reuters) - If Britain wants an orderly divorce from the European Union then a hard-fought withdrawal agreement exists already and time should be spent hammering out a future trade relationship between the two sides, a French minister said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Amelie de Montchalin, newly-appointed French Junior Minister for European affairs, leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

European Affairs Minister of State Amelie de Montchalin said there was no chance of renegotiation that deal, echoing President Emmanuel Macron and other EU capitals, adding there would be no implementation period if Britain crashes out of the bloc with no deal on Oct. 31.

Boris Johnson, the favourite to become Britain’s next prime minister has said Britain could retain tariff-free trade with the EU after a no deal exit and avoid any chaos — a view widely contested in Europe.

“There will be a Brexit day plus one, and then the day after that, and that is what we need to work on,” de Montchalin told reporters.

“The advantage of the Withdrawal Agreement is that it builds in a transition period which allows us to discuss our future relationship in a stable environment. If we have a no-deal Brexit, we’ll be discussing the future in an unstable position.”

De Montchalin said France would work closely with whomever won the leadership contest.

The Daily Mail reported on Friday that Johnson had cast the French as “turds” while foreign minister and that the Foreign Office had begged the BBC not to air the remark.

De Montchalin, who speaks fluent English, declined to comment on a word whose nuance she said was lost on her.

She said both Johnson and his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt would be “very welcome” to re-negotiate the Political Declaration that covers bilateral ties after Brexit, but not the legally binding withdrawal agreement itself. The accord contains the Irish border “backstop” arrangement, which undermined Theresa May’s deal.

“We need to get past this stage, turn a new chapter, and put all our energies into our future relationship,” de Montchalin said.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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