Macron demands Brexit trade agreement is translated into French even if it risks accidental no deal

James Crisp
·3-min read
Emmanuel Macron styles himself as the Brexit bad cop of Brussels.  - Shutterstock
Emmanuel Macron styles himself as the Brexit bad cop of Brussels. - Shutterstock

Emmanuel Macron is insisting that the UK-EU trade deal must be translated into French before he will support it, even if it means risking a no deal Brexit. 

Trade negotiations were halted on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for coronavirus.

Time is running out for the two sides to agree a deal and hand it to the European Parliament so it can be ratified before the end of year no deal deadline

Mr Macron’s ambassador told the European Commission this morning at a meeting of senior diplomats in Brussels that the deal had to be translated into French before it got to MEPs for scrutiny. 

"A French version of the deal is key for Paris to approve the deal," a diplomatic note seen by The Telegraph revealed.  

Mr Macron, supported by Belgium and the Netherlands, demanded the commission publish emergency no deal plans at an EU summit on Thursday night, despite the risk of destabilising the delicately poised negotiations. 

The French president’s hardline stance will heap even more pressure on the European Parliament’s tight timetable for ratification of the deal, which is thought to be between 600 and 1,800 pages long. 

But France said it would not accept a political decision for MEPs to be allowed to only ratify the deal in English to save time, if an agreement can be reached. 

“There is growing concern that the negotiation process does not proceed quickly enough to ensure the ratification of a possible agreement until the end of the year deadline,” an EU diplomat said. 

A senior EU official warned that Monday was the deadline for a finalised trade deal. Otherwise there would not be enough time to translate it into all the other 23 official language of the EU before MEPs began their scrutiny processes. 

With Mr Barnier now in quarantine for up to 10 days, the Monday deadline appears certain to be missed. 

The European Commission told the ambassadors negotiations would continue online until it was safe for the two sides to meet again. 

A senior official, standing in for Mr Barnier, said that because of the slipping deadlines it was unlikely that legally watertight  translations of the free trade agreement in all EU languages would be ready before January 1. 

She said that progress had been made across the whole deal, which is said to be about 95 percent agreed, but warned that crucial breakthroughs on fishing, the level playing field guarantees and the deal’s enforcement remained elusive.

"There is tangible progress on a number of areas while gaps are only slowly shrinking on core issues like level playing field, governance and fisheries,” an EU diplomat said. 

MEPs must ratify the finalised agreement before the end of the year otherwise the UK will trade on less lucrative WTO terms with the EU from January 1. 

No deal will also be disruptive to aviation, trade, and freight as the UK will leave the EU’s legal framework without replacement agreements.  

An EU diplomat said, “Member states are in agreement that contingency planning needs to be ramped up in parallel with the ongoing and hopefully successful negotiations. We must be prepared for every outcome.”

A senior EU diplomat has predicted a “creative solution” could be found but this is far from certain. 

It would allow a negotiated deal to come into force on January 1, with a European Parliament vote confirming it in the new year. 

The RTE broadcaster reported that the commission was considering a review clause that would kick in after five to ten years on the agreements on fishing rights and the trade deal but that has not been presented to the UK in negotiations.