French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that the UK and EU will “rip each other apart” in what will be tough negotiations over a future trade deal.
Le Drian has also suggested that it will be difficult for a free trade deal to be in place by the end of the year, at which time the Brexit transition period will lapse and UK-EU trade would default to World Trade Organisation terms.
Speaking at a conference in Munich on Sunday, Le Drian said: "I think that on trade issues and the mechanism for future relations, which we are going to start on, we are going to rip each other apart.
"But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests."
Le Drian’s words echo those of other EU officials including European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who have both aired concerns over the allotted time for negotiations.
Von der Leyen and others have also emphasised that the UK cannot have a close relationship with the bloc with “high quality” market access unless it agrees to a level playing field on certain standards, something which the prime minister and senior cabinet members are known to oppose.
A spokesperson for the UK government has said that the end goal from their point of view is a new “relationship based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals, one centred on free trade and inspired by our shared history and values”.
The spokesperson added: “We are not asking for anything special, bespoke or unique, but are looking for a deal like those the EU has struck previously with other friendly countries like Canada.”