France ‘has sternest attitude towards Brexit negotiations’

Formal Brexit negotiations will not get under way until next month

FRANCE is the EU country with the toughest overall Brexit negotiation stance towards the UK, according to a study by The Economist.

Of seven countries rated by the magazine as having a ‘hardcore’ stance, France is claimed to be the ‘sternest of all’.

Other ‘hardcore’ countries include Belgium and Germany as well as Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, while Poland and Sweden have the ‘softest’ approach.

The Economist’s analysis suggests France is especially opposed to Britain paying a low exit bill or ‘cherry-picking’ from the four ‘EU freedoms’, such as having free trade without freedom of movement.

Formal Brexit negotiations have yet to get under way, though this is expected to move into a higher gear from the end of this month, when the European Council meets for a summit on April 29.

The leaders of the EU27 are expected to adopt negotiating guidelines, allowing the discussions to start.

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This will be one month after the formal trigger of article 50, which fired the starting gun on Brexit. It had been speculated that UK Prime Minister Theresa May might trigger it in time for a previous summit on March 9-10, but she opted to leave it until the end of the government’s self-imposed deadline of ‘by the end of March’.

If negotiations start in May there may then be just 17 months to conclude the ‘divorce’ deal – the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said a deal must be ready by October 2018, allowing for ratification by the council, the European parliament and the UK. Matters are not likely to start in earnest until the French elections on May 7 are out of the way.

The ‘article 50’ deal will focus on matters including the ‘exit bill’ – agreeing what Britain owes the EU – and expat rights on both sides. A ‘framework for the future EU/UK relationship’ should also be outlined, but a detailed trade deal is likely to take longer, meaning transitional arrangements are expected to be needed to avoid a ‘cliff-edge’ change.

The UK will leave the EU on March 29, 2019, unless the EU27 agree unanimously to extend the negotiating period.

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