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Emmanuel Macron tells EU leaders to make a deal with Britain (The Times)

President Macron appears to be softening his opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit plan LISELOTTE SABRO/RITZAU SCANPIX

Brexit boost as French president calls for alliance

President Macron is preparing to throw Theresa May a lifeline by pushing other EU leaders to agree a close relationship with Britain after Brexit as part of his vision for a united Europe.

The French leader wants to use a summit in Austria next month to spell out a new structure for European alliances. It would be based on “concentric circles”, with the EU and the euro at its core and Britain in a second ring, diplomatic sources have told The Times.

That would depend on an amicable Brexit, however. Mr Macron’s decision to promote his vision at Salzburg suggests he is softening opposition to the prime minister’s Chequers proposals.

The sense of optimism was boosted yesterday when Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, offered Britain an unprecedented trade deal that would keep ties “as close as possible”. His comments sent sterling to a three-week high against the dollar.

On Monday Mr Macron said that any Brexit deal should not threaten the EU’s integrity. However, diplomats said yesterday that he was concerned a “no deal” departure would shatter European ties just as they were needed most.

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