France warns UK against ‘provocations’


PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss Brexit with Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom he has invited to visit in the next few weeks, an official from Macron’s Elysee office said on Friday.

The two leaders spoke on Thursday, and Macron’s talks with Johnson would be in regard to the demands of the European Union about Brexit, the official added. On entering Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson set up a showdown with the EU by vowing to negotiate a new deal and threatening that, if the bloc refused, he would take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal.

One of the main areas of contention between Britain and the EU over the terms of Brexit has been the Irish backstop. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said this week there would be no withdrawal agreement or subsequent trade pact with Britain if it did not accept the backstop.
The backstop is an insurance policy to provisionally keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, pending a better solution, to prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also told Johnson this week that a divorce deal agreed by predecessor Theresa May last November was the best and only deal with the European Union. Boris Johnson will travel to France to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in the next few weeks, French officials said Friday, while warning the new British premier against posturing and provocations.

The 41-year-old French leader, who has said he is happy to be considered the bad guy in the Brexit negotiations, is set to be a key figure during the tricky and potentially bad-tempered talks in the months ahead. Macron extended the invitation to Johnson in a call late Thursday from his official summer vacation residence in the south of France, the fort of Bregancon, where he is expected to stay for the next three weeks, said an aide.

But in a sign of wariness in France about Johnson’s anti-EU rhetoric, France’s Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin urged Britain’s new leader to work on creating a working relationship with his partners on the continent. From our side, we need to be responsible, she told France 2 television. That means being clear, predictable and it means on the other side that we need to create a working relationship, that there aren’t games, posturing, provocations.

The timing of the meeting between Macron and Johnson was unclear. The British prime minister is due in France to attend the G7 meeting of developed nations in Biarritz on August 24-26. In any case, we want to work with him .. and we need to, Montchalin added. Last year, Macron broke away from his time off to host then British prime minister Theresa May as she sought new concessions in her ultimately doomed bid to bring Britain out of the European Union.

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