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Johnson and Macron Met in London to Dissect Brexit and China

Joe Mayes
Johnson and Macron Met in London to Dissect Brexit and China

(Bloomberg) -- U.K.’s Boris Johnson and France’s Emmanuel Macron held talks in London on Thursday, the prime minister’s first bilateral with a European leader since calling for fresh momentum to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Macron, visiting Britain to commemorate the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s famous broadcast during World War II, discussed a range of issues with Johnson, including their shared efforts to combat coronavirus, Brexit and China’s proposed security legislation in Hong Kong, according to a statement from 10 Downing Street.

“On UK-EU negotiations, the Prime Minister welcomed the agreement to intensify talks in July and underlined that the U.K. does not believe it makes sense for there to be prolonged negotiations into the autumn,” a U.K. spokesperson said by email.

Johnson’s discussions with the French president come as Britain urgently seeks a new economic relationship with the European Union, its largest trading partner, seeking to avoid a disruptive economic shock when the Brexit transition period concludes at year-end. A sense of urgency is building up, even as progress remains elusive and the timeline ever tighter.

Johnson held an hour-long video call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other EU officials Monday, saying the negotiations needed “a bit of oomph” but the prospects for an accord are “very good.”

The two sides have hit stumbling blocks over contentious issues such as access to U.K. fishing waters and the future role of the European Court of Justice in Britain’s affairs. Without a deal, Britain and the EU would revert to trading on World Trade Organization terms, meaning tariffs on trade and hurting businesses already depleted by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, von der Leyen signaled the EU may be willing to compromise on some of its demands, but warned that the bloc isn’t prepared to sacrifice its principles for the sake of an agreement.

‘Actually Done’

However, Britain and the EU still have a long way to go to overcome their differences. Von der Leyen stuck to the EU’s tough line on the way any agreement is managed and how disputes are resolved, one of the major sticking points in talks.

“Governance may sound like an issue for bureaucrats,” she said. “But this is central for businesses and private citizens both in the U.K. and in the EU to ensure that what has been agreed is actually done.”

During Macron’s visit, he and Johnson viewed artefacts from WWII and watched a flypast of the Red Arrows and French Air Force. Macron also met Prince Charles.

The two leaders also discussed the prospect of holding a bilateral summit by the beginning of 2021 and their intention to work together to tackle illegal migration by people using small boats to cross the English Channel, according to an Elysee official who declined to be named discussing private talks.

(Adds detail in final paragraph.)

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