New French Europe minister – Brexit deal possible but not ‘at any price’


France will continue to take a tough line on defending the rights of French fishermen in Brexit talks but a deal with the United Kingdom is still possible, France’s new European affairs minister Clement Beaune said on Wednesday.

“We will not accept a deal at any price,” he told France Inter radio in his first public comments on Brexit since his appointment on Sunday. “Better no deal at all than a bad deal,” he said while adding that a deal was nevertheless the best outcome for all concerned.

Britain and the European Union clashed last week over the chances of securing a free trade agreement, with Brussels deeming it “unlikely” but London holding out hope one could be reached in September.

France is one of the coastal states that has pushed hardest for EU fishermen to keep the right to fish in British waters after a transition period ends at the end of this year.

Before becoming Europe minister, Beaune served as President Emmanuel Macron’s Europe adviser. A self-described anglophile, he has advised Macron on Brexit negotiations since the 2016 referendum.

He said France would be “intransigent” on fishing, and will not be “intimidated” by Britain in the negotiation “game”.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, if there is no deal, it will be a difficult issue,” he added. “We’ll have to organise a response for sectors like fisheries. Support our fishermen financially. We’re not there yet.”