President Macron rejected Theresa May’s appeals for help to unlock Brexit talks as he insisted yesterday that EU unity trumped close ties with Britain.
“France wants to maintain a strong, special relationship with London but not if the cost is the unravelling of the European Union,” he said in his annual foreign policy speech. Britain’s decision to leave the EU was “a sovereign choice, which we must respect, but it cannot come at the expense of the European Union’s integrity”.
Mr Macron said he hoped that an arrangement could be found with Britain by the end of the year, but his remarks confirmed that France does not accept Mrs May’s “Chequers” scheme for a seamless flow of goods with the continent and an open Irish frontier while Britain imposes controls on the movement of Europeans.
The French president’s line is similar to the firm position taken by Michel Barnier, the conservative politician who is leading the EU’s Brexit negotiations, and implies that the prime minister failed to win Mr Macron over to the plan when she visited him this month at the Fort de Bregançon, his official retreat on the Mediterranean.