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France considers a one-year extension to Brexit to be “too long,” a spokesman for Emmanuel Macron has said, ahead of the French President’s meeting with Theresa May on Tuesday.
A delay until March 31, 2019 was floated during last month’s EU Council summit, but was ultimately not pursued — and France appears set to block such a plan were it to be raised again.
The spokesman reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement between May and the EU cannot be revisited, and also said Britain would need to accept “strict conditions” if it is to receive a lengthy Brexit delay.
He raised concerns over whether the UK would interfere in the running of the EU during an extension period. “The EU must keep functioning and any Brexit delay must preserve the functioning of the EU,” he said.
“It’s logical that when you’re a member looking to leave you can’t build with the others,” the spokesman went on, adding that it would “make sense” for Britain to be excluded from the process of setting the EU budget or choosing the next President of the European Commission.
Those conditions would placate fears stoked by hardline Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, who tweeted last week that Britain “should be as difficult as possible” within the bloc if granted a long delay.
“In the event of a long extension the (remaining) 27 could demand reviews to look at whether the UK is honoring its commitments not to block the EU’s decision-making,” the Élysée spokesman said.
“We don’t want to bet on the functioning of the EU. We can’t say to ourselves ‘everything will be fine’ (if) that’s not the case. It’s not about being nice or not nice. There’s a difference between a leaving member state and a member state. We can’t risk the European Union,” he added.
Those tough words indicate that Macron will again prove a holdout in Europe’s discussions over a second Brexit extension. The French leader seemed more willing than most to allow Britain to crash out with no deal in March.
But Macron’s spokesman was keen to push back on the idea that he is being unfair to Theresa May.
“France being portrayed as a bad cop is not correct. We are looking for solutions but we need to stay firm,” the spokesman said.