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EU infighting: Merkel does NOT agree with Macron’s fishing demands in Brexit talks

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Brexit: Expert discusses why Macron has been 'tough' in talks

With less than a month until the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, crucial talks are ongoing in a bid to secure a trade deal. But neither side has been able to agree on issues including state aid and fishing quotas.

During negotiations, France has been the most vocal in its concerns about the final concessions, with the likes of Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark also raising worries.

France has also been furiously opposed to Britain’s plans to take back control of fishing waters.

French officials have been behind a push for EU negotiator Michel Barnier to walk away from the negotiations at the end of the week unless Boris Johnson makes significant concessions.

But with time running out European leaders have warned it is vital to strike a trade agreement.

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Yesterday, France’s Europe minister, acknowledged EU leaders – including the German chancellor – did not endorse Mr Macron’s hard stance on state aid, workers’ rights and environmental standards.

Clement Beaune told Journal du Dimanche: “There are different sensitivities across the 27 EU countries.

“It would be naive to deny it.

“But the negotiating mandate is detailed and we are sticking to it.

“As for Chancellor Merkel, she wants a deal, but she also defends our demands – and she knows the European market well enough to guess how the German economy would suffer from a bad deal.

“In short, the British gamble on trying to divide the EU has failed.”

On Friday, Mr Beaune warned Mr Macron was ready to veto a deal if it fell short of French demands.

But he said yesterday France was willing to contemplate the UK being free to diverge from EU standards, if Brussels is able to take “corrective measures”.

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He added: “The British want access to the single European market without constraints for their social, environmental or health standards, which is unacceptable.

“For our part, we are ready to put in place a system in which a divergence of standards would bee allowed but beyond which corrective measures would be taken.

“The British tell us that this is unfair because other ‘third countries’ do not have these same constraints, such as Canada.

“But we have to realise that the UK will be our major trading partner outside the EU tomorrow.

“There is ten times as much trade between the EU and UK than with Canada.”

Over the weekend, a French government official said they are “pushing for reaching” an agreement.

They said: “We’re not pushing for a no deal…. But we’re pushing for reaching an ambitious agreement.

“We push the negotiator to see the last days or even the last hours that we have [to negotiate an agreement].”

The diplomat added that a veto from EU countries could not be ruled out if Mr Barnier crossed any red lines.

They said: “If the mandate is not adhered to, they have every right to do so.”

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