August 2, 2018 / 3:27 PM / 9 months ago

Macron, May meeting not an attempt to sidestep Barnier: Elysee

FILE PHOTO: France's President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May inspect the troops at Sandhurst Military Academy, Britain, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

PARIS (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron has full trust in Michel Barnier, the European Union’s Brexit negotiator, and Friday’s meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May is not an attempt to hold parallel talks, a French presidency official said on Thursday.

London is pushing for a pro-jobs trade deal but has yet to find a proposal to maintain economic ties with the bloc that is acceptable to negotiators in Brussels and pleases both sides of May’s divided political party.

Barnier on July 26 rejected key elements of Britain’s new trade proposal, in particular Britain’s offer to collect customs duties for the EU as part of an effort to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“(Friday’s meeting) is not a negotiation, it is not a substitute for the negotiations led by Michel Barnier,” the official told reporters in a briefing.

Britain will lose access to the EU’s internal market, which allows goods, services, capital and people to move freely across borders — four freedoms Macron says must always go together — when it leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019.

Macron fully supported Barnier’s reserved response to Britain’s proposals for its future relationship with the EU, the official said. Barnier was negotiating on behalf of all the 27 member states that will remain in the bloc, he added.

“That’s how it will remain,” the official said.

May will have dinner with Macron at his summer retreat on the French Riviera on Friday evening, days after her new foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, described warnings of a no-deal as “Project Reality” and not “Project Fear”.

Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Luke Baker, Richard Balmforth

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