PM warned Brussels will not bow to 'artificial deadlines' in trade talks
By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor
Brussels will not be pressurised by "artificial deadlines" in the post-Brexit trade talks between the EU and UK, France's Europe minister has warned.
Amelie de Montchalin said the EU would not sign "any kind of a deal" at the end of the transition period in December because substance is more important than deadlines.
Her comments come after the UK Government warned in its negotiation mandate on Thursday that it could walk away from trade talks with Brussels in June unless there is the "broad outline" of a deal.
Speaking at Chatham House in central London, Ms de Montchalin said the EU would "not accept time pressure" and is "not ready to sign any kind of a deal on December 31 at 11pm".
"We cannot let our level of ambition be affected by what I would call artificial deadlines," she said.
"If the UK decides to shorten the negotiating period, it will be the UK's responsibility.
"It will not be our choice on the European side, and that choice will have consequences in terms of the breadth and depth of the relationship we can build."
She added: "For us substance is much, much more important than deadlines."
The UK's guidelines for the negotiations, which cover trade and other aspects of the future relationship with Brussels, set the deadline for progress against a backdrop of deep divisions between the two sides over issues including fish, state subsidies and standards.
Ms de Montchalin also spoke of the importance of trust in the negotiations.
She said: "A swift negotiation could be impacted by a degrade in implementation of the former agreement which we just reached three months ago - the Withdrawal Agreement.
"Ensuring that our citizens are protected and are never bargaining chips in the future. Ensuring that the Northern Ireland protocol is fully implemented is for us an absolute priority."