Exclusive-French minister rejects UK Brexit renegotiation request

© Reuters. European Commission Vice-President in charge of Values and Transparency Vera Jourova and French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune pose for a picture before their meeting during a General Affairs Council in Luxembourg June 22, 2021. John Thys/Po

By Michel Rose

PARIS (Reuters) -France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune rejected on Thursday Britain’s request to renegotiate the Brexit deal governing trade with Northern Ireland, dismissing British accusations of European dogmatism as a “tall tale”.

Britain on Wednesday demanded a new deal from the European Union to govern post-Brexit trade with the British province, saying it already had cause to step away from parts of the deal that it struck with Brussels only last year.

London accuses Brussels of being too purist, or legalistic, in interpreting what the deal means for some goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland.

The European Commission earlier on Thursday said it would not renegotiate the deal and work on “creative solutions”, but the first reaction from France showed some members states were getting impatient with Britain.

“The European Union has dedicated days and nights for the past five years to find pragmatic solutions with the United Kingdom,” Beaune told Reuters. “The narrative of a rigid and dogmatic Europe is a tall tale.”

France has consistently taken a hard line in Brexit negotiations, often expressing out loud what other member states said privately.

Beaune, the rising star of the French government, is a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron. He first worked as Macron’s Europe adviser before being named a cabinet minister, and has followed Brexit negotiations behind the scenes from the onset.

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“We have been working for months to make the protocol requested by the British government and voted by the British parliament work,” he said.

“We can still work on practical solutions, but not empty the protocol of its substance or renegotiate it,” he added.

“How could we renegotiate with a partner that cannot respect its own commitments?” said Beaune.

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