September 22, 2018 / 7:19 AM / 3 months ago

France sees Brexit deal as possible, but must prepare for 'no deal'

FILE PHOTO: Nathalie Loiseau, French Minister attached to the Foreign Affairs Minister, attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - France still believes that a good deal on Brexit is possible but the country must prepare for the possibility of Britain and the European Union failing to reach an agreement on its divorce from the bloc, a minister said on Saturday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday that Brexit talks with the EU had hit an impasse, defiantly challenging the bloc to come up with its own plans a day after EU leaders savaged her proposals.

“The British people decided to leave in a (2016) referendum, we respect that. But this choice cannot lead to the EU going bust, unravelling,” Nathalie Loiseau, minister for European affairs, told France Info radio.

“That’s the message we have tried to send for several months now to our British counterparts, who may have thought we were going to say ‘yes’ to whatever deal they came up with.”

Loiseau said May’s so-called Chequers proposals, whereby British goods would enter the EU’s single market freely, were “too negative” and would have led to “unfair competition for European companies”.

She said she still believed a good deal with Britain was possible, but that France should get ready for the possibility of a “no deal” and would introduce legislation in November to that effect.

“We are working on reaching a good deal, that’s where we spend most of our energy. It’s still possible, I believe it is, all the 27 (EU member states) believe it is. But I can’t rule out that we don’t reach an agreement in the end.”

“Let’s imagine we don’t reach an agreement. What we say is we must prepare for that,” she added.

May has said her proposals for future trade with the EU were the only way forward. EU leaders in Salzburg repeated their view that the plans would undermine their cherished single market.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Mark Heinrich

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