Macron ‘using Brexit talks to boost standing in France’

Macron 'using Brexit talks to boost standing in France'Emmanuel Macron is using the post-Brexit trade talks to shore up his domestic standing in France, UK sources have claimed, as they labelled talks with the EU “performance art”. British sources said the French president was prioritising concerns about his political future over agreeing a free trade agreement with the UK, as he came under pressure from Marine Le Pen, the far-Right leader. Ministers privately claim that it could take “years” for the UK to return to the negotiating table if the current transition period ends without a trade agreement on Jan 1. Senior Tories have warned EU leaders not to expect to reopen talks next spring – by which point they believe the UK could already have experienced the worst effects of ending the transition period without a deal. On Friday, Boris Johnson accused European leaders of having “abandoned the idea of a free trade deal” and told the country to “get ready” for a no-deal outcome in the negotiations after his Oct 15 deadline for reaching an agreement passed. Senior Brexiteers praised the move, with John Redwood, the former trade secretary, claiming: “The UK will prosper more with no deal than with a bad deal.” Lord Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, told his counterpart, Michel Barnier, to call off a planned trip to London for talks this week, after EU leaders issued a joint summit statement calling on the UK to offer compromises on several areas, including fishing rights in UK waters.