Macron accepts ‘bad guy’ role in Brexit talks

French President Emmanuel Macron reacts as he arrives at a special EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, 28 May 2019. [Sascha Steinbach/EPA/EFE]

French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday (3 June) that he fully accepted his “bad guy” role in insisting on a shorter extension to Britain’s tortuous exit from the EU, while insisting that 31 October is the “final, final deadline.”

Macron pushed for a tough line against London after British lawmakers refused to back the exit deal reached by Prime Minister Theresa May and the rest of the bloc.

“I was always pictured as the bad guy in the room… I endorse such a role because I think it is a big mistake to procrastinate,” Macron told a gathering of international banking chiefs at the Elysée Palace in Paris.

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After a first extension in late March, EU leaders gave Britain until end-October to find a way to avoid leaving with no deal, potentially wreaking havoc on cross-Channel trade.

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The UK is set to remain in the EU until 31 October and take part in next month’s European elections, after Theresa May accepted a new extension granted by EU leaders in the early hours of Thursday morning (11 April) that will prevent the UK crashing out of the bloc at the end of the week.

It was a compromise between Macron and others ready to accept a no-deal exit, and other EU leaders who were ready to give Britain even more time.

“I think this is the final, final deadline because I don’t want to have the new commission and this new executive to have to deal with this past issue,” Macron said.

He warned that reopening negotiations on a Brexit deal was a “non-starter,” but also said he didn’t see how Britain would approve the deal “without a new general election or a referendum on what was negotiated.”

British politics have been thrown into chaos over the EU exit with more than a dozen people jockeying to replace May, who announced her resignation last month after a rebellion among her Conservative allies.

Macron nonetheless suggested that EU leaders might be willing to grant more time in case of a promise for a new Brexit referendum or a willingness to negotiate “something totally new.”

“Until the very last minute, the only one in a position to stop Brexit is the UK government,” he said.

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