July 26, 2019 / 4:48 AM / a month ago

France tells Johnson: let's work on post-Brexit relationship

PARIS (Reuters) - France is ready to work with Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but Paris and other European capitals will not renegotiate the terms of the hard-fought Brexit deal, a French minister said on Friday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the House of Commons in London, Britain July 25, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. Reuters Tv via REUTERS

State minister for European affairs Amelie de Montchalin said President Emmanuel Macron would hold Brexit-related talks with Johnson in France in the coming weeks.

She said there was no question of renegotiating the divorce deal agreed between Johnson’s predecessor and the European Union, but that the two sides still had much to talk about.

“What is still to negotiate is the future relationship,” Montchalin said. “We have to create a working relationship and not get into games, gestures and provocations.”

On entering Downing Street on Wednesday, Johnson set up a showdown with the EU by vowing to negotiate a new deal and threatening that, if the bloc refused, he would take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal.

“We want to work with him. Work,” de Montchalin told public broadcaster France 2.

One of the main areas of contention between Britain and the EU over the terms of Brexit has been the Irish backstop - an insurance policy to provisionally keep Britain in a customs union with the EU and prevent the return of a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said this week there would be no withdrawal agreement or subsequent trade pact with Britain if it did not accept the backstop.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also told Johnson this week that the divorce deal agreed by predecessor Theresa May last November was the best and only deal with the EU.

Oct. 31 was not an immovable deadline, de Montchalin said, adding red lines “only created tensions in diplomacy”. But she reiterated that Britain must have good reason for any further delay should it eventually want one.

Reporting by Marine Pennetier and Richard Lough; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Mark Potter

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