Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Hard Boy' Macron Fires Back at Boris; FRENCH PRESIDENT TAKES TOUGH STANCE BUT BRITAIN DETECTS 'OPENNESS' TO TALKS Boris Welcomes 'Positive Noises' as He Holds Lunch Talks with Macron

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Hard Boy' Macron Fires Back at Boris; FRENCH PRESIDENT TAKES TOUGH STANCE BUT BRITAIN DETECTS 'OPENNESS' TO TALKS Boris Welcomes 'Positive Noises' as He Holds Lunch Talks with Macron

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy and Kate Proctor

EMMANUEL MACRON called himself the "hard boy" of the EU today as he warned Boris Johnson there will be no big concessions to avert a no-deal Brexit.

At the start of their first official meeting in Paris, the French President said the onus was on the British Prime Minister to find a solution and the blame would be on his shoulders if it went badly.

"We will not find a new withdrawal agreement in the next 30 days that will be very different from the existing one," Mr Macron said, in a grudging echo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's offer of talks if the British come up with a new plan within a month.

In a sterner tone than the one adopted by Mrs Merkel in Berlin last night, he said the backstop was "indispensable" and that clarity was needed from the British. "I've always been presented as the hard boy in the group but it's just that I have always been clear: a choice was made and we cannot just ignore it," Mr Macron said. "We have to implement a decision taken by the British people."

He said the current deal could be amended only as long as it complied with the EU's goals. "If not, then it's Continued on Page 2 Continued from Page 1 probably a political issue, a political decision to be taken by the Prime Minister. It's not our decision."

Mr Macron said Mrs Merkel had simply made clear the EU view that "we need visibility in 30 days. I believe this also matches the goal of Prime Minister Johnson."

He vowed: "We will make the most of this period of time."

British officials said Mr Macron was being "tough in posture", but thought they detected a shift towards "openness to discussion". It was a "move forward from no change", they said.

The two leaders shook hands warmly outside the Elysee Palace before a working lunch.

Mr Johnson said: "It was very interesting to hear some of the positive noises that we're now hearing ... We look forward to developing those thoughts in the next few weeks."

Mr Macron was disparaging about Mr Johnson's Brexit plans in a briefing with French journalists yesterday, saying that Britain would be "the main victim" and would end up dependent on the US. …

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