PARIS (Reuters) – France denied the European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was about to be sidelined by EU leaders in a bid to break the deadlock in trade talks, as reported by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph.
Twisting a famous British war slogan, European affairs minister Clement Beaune tweeted on Saturday: “Keep calm and support Michel Barnier”.
“No doubt that British humour the Telegraph is accustomed to: Obviously, full support to Michel Barnier and his mandate! #fakenews,” Beaune added in a second tweet linking to the Telegraph story.
The newspaper said on Friday Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, was to pave the way for heads of EU countries to intervene in the talks.
The chances of Britain leaving the EU without a trade deal have risen sharply as negotiations have been threatened by London’s insistence that it have full autonomy over its state aid plans, negotiators and diplomats have said.
The United Kingdom formally left the EU on Jan. 31 but it remains in a transition phase under which EU rules still apply until Dec. 31, after which either a new trade regime comes into force or it will revert to rules set by the World Trade Organisation.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by David Holmes)