Macron snubs Britain's May on post-Brexit trade deal talks

Macron, Trump and May at the G-7 Summit in Sicily.
Macron, Trump and May at the G-7 Summit in Sicily.PHOTO: AFP
Trump and May walking together at the G-7 summit in Taormina, Sicily.
Trump and May walking together at the G-7 summit in Taormina, Sicily.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAORMINA, Italy (AFP) – France’s new President Emmanuel Macron on Friday (May 26) brushed off Theresa May’s request for early talks on a trade deal with the EU after Brexit.

As the two held their first official talks on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G-7) summit, British Prime Minister May repeated that she would like to start talks on trade at the start of the negotiations, rather than waiting until after the thorny issues of Britain’s financial settlement and expatriate rights are resolved.

“As regards Brexit I’m very clear and I remain clear that we have under the (EU) treaty up to two years to negotiate withdrawal and the future relationship, and when we leave the EU it’s important that we know not just what the withdrawal terms are but what that future relationship will be, which will include trade,” she told reporters.

May also “reaffirmed her wish for early clarity on the position of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa”, a Downing Street spokesman said.

However, a source in the French delegation said Macron had insisted on the EU’s position that the terms of the divorce must be thrashed out first.

“The European Union will be united in the Brexit negotiations, but France and the United Kingdom will continue to maintain close ties in areas of economic, security and diplomatic cooperation between our two countries,” the source said.

Britain triggered the two-year process of leaving the European Union on March 29, following a referendum vote last year to end its four-decade membership of the bloc. The start of formal negotiations must wait until after a general election that May has called for June 8.

May met separately at the G-7 with US President Donald Trump, a critic of the EU who had declared his support for Brexit.

The Downing Street spokesman said: “The President and the Prime Minister reaffirmed their commitment to increasing trade between the UK and the US, including a post-Brexit trade deal.”