France denies it has softened stance on Brexit

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May visit the Thiepval Memorial, in Thiepval, France November 9, 2018. Francois Mori/Pool via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - France on Sunday denied British media reports that President Emmanuel Macron had offered concessions on the Irish backstop to end the stalemate over Brexit negotiations.

“These (reports) are without any foundation ... The French position is that of the European Union: the withdrawal agreement is not renegotiable,” an official from Macron’s Elysee office said.

The Times newspaper reported over the weekend that France and other EU countries were ready to provide assurances over the Irish backstop, and Macron had softened his position “to assist a last-ditch attempt by the EU to help to get the withdrawal agreement across the line.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking changes to the most contentious part of her withdrawal agreement: a backstop arrangement to ensure there is no return of a hard border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland after Brexit.

May plans to speak to every European Union leader and the European Commission chief to seek changes to her EU withdrawal agreement, days after she suffered a defeat in a symbolic vote in parliament that has increased the risk of a “no-deal” Brexit in 40 days when Britain is due to leave the European Union.


Macron has championed the EU’s refusal to reopen the agreement and water down a provision designed to ensure there is never a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. [nL5N202518]

Reporting by Michel Rose; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Susan Fenton