Andrew Marr challenged Ms de Montchalin after the French minister earlier this week warned the European Union will not be “blackmailed” into agreeing to a Brexit trade deal with the UK by December 2020 if extra time is needed. Boris Johnson pledged to strike a new trade agreement with the EU by the end of the transition period later this year, insisting he is ready to walk away to avoid postponing Britain’s full departure from the bloc yet again. But the BBC host pointed out Brussels also signed up to the December deadline as part of the political declaration agreed with Britain last year.
Mr Marr said: “The trouble with that, respectfully, is that the EU, like the UK, signed up to that date in international law.
“That’s the date both sides agreed. And Britain certainly said that it is a hard deadline.”
Ms de Montchlin insisted the deadline for negotiations can be “extended in international law,” which prompted Mr Marr to hit back: “But you don’t expect Boris Johnson to extend.
“Boris Johnson is talking about Boris Johnson walking away from the negotiations if there isn’t substantive progress by June.”
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Andrew Marr confronted de Montchalin over her deadline warning
Andrew Marr pointed out the EU also signed up to the December 2020 deadline
The French minister insisted the European Union’s negotiating team remains committed to delivering a good deal for EU citizens and remains ready to postpone the end of the transition deal to ensure a beneficial agreement is in place at its end.
Ms de Montchalin said: “What I know, and I go back to my passion and reason, I think it will be very difficult for people to understand we did not protect them as much as we could’ve done just because we wanted to stick to a date while we had the opportunity to delay the negotiations for six months more, 12 months more.
“I’m not telling you this is what we want. I’m telling you that, in the end, what matters is the content, the substance of the deal.
“And we won’t sign the deal just because we need to sign something.”
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Andrew Marr pointed out Boris Johnson is unlikely to agree to an extension of the transition period
Speaking at Chatham House in London earlier this week, Ms de Montchaline said the EU will not be pressurised by “artificial deadlines” in the post-Brexit trade talks between the bloc and the UK.
Ms de Montchalin said the EU would not sign “any kind of a deal” at the end of the transition period in December because substance is more important than deadlines.
The European Affairs Minister was appointed by President Macron last year.
She said: “We cannot let our level of ambition be affected by what I would call artificial deadlines.
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De Montchalin said the EU will not agree to signing up to a deal for the sake of keeping with the deadline
Brexit trade talks are due to begin on March 3
“If the UK decides to shorten the negotiating period, it will be the UK’s responsibility.
“It will not be our choice on the European side, and that choice will have consequences in terms of the breadth and depth of the relationship we can build.”
Mr Johnson’s negotiating team led by David Frost is set to reject proposed clauses in an agreement that would require the UK to remain signed up to the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
The UK and EU’s negotiating teams are due to meet in Brussels on Monday for the opening round of discussions as divisions on key issues widen.
But the government is divided because of the planned move, the Sunday Telegraph reports, with many members insisting the country should remain bound by the laws after the Brexit transition period has ended.
Dominic Cummings has in the past lashed out at the ECHR, saying that a referendum on the matter “should be high on the agenda” if here-entered politics.