Speaking ahead of a speech in London tonight, French economy minister Bruno Le Maire dismayed the Government by rejecting calls for the sector to be included in a deal described by UK ministers as Canada plus-plus.
“We have to avoid any misunderstanding,” Mr Le Maire told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Financial services cannot be in a free trade agreement, for many reasons, for reasons of stability, for the sake of supervision, because there are very specific rules for financial services.”
He said an “equivalence regime” could be offered, which would mean mutual recognition of standards but could be easily revoked at 30 days’ notice. He also urged financial firms to consider locating in France.
Mr Le Maire stressed France wanted a deal that would work both for the UK and the EU. “We need a good relationship between the great country of the UK and the great country of France.”
In her Mansion House speech on Friday, the Prime Minister set out plans for Britain and the EU to access each other’s financial markets based on a commitment to maintaining the same “regulatory outcomes”.
Senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt arrived in Downing Street this morning with a warning for Mrs May that the European Parliament is ready to veto any Brexit deal that does not meet its demands.
He urged her to back down in disputes over EU citizens’ rights and table solutions for the Irish border issue.
Mr Verhofstadt, the parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, was expected to make clear MEPs would veto any move to downgrade rights for EU citizens who arrive in the UK during a transition phase. He was open to the idea of an EU-UK “association agreement”, mirroring an EU treaty with Ukraine that Mrs May held up in her Mansion House speech as an example of a “tailored approach” to trade deals.
His visit, which included talks with Brexit Secretary David Davis and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, comes ahead of the EU publishing draft guidelines for a future trade deal, expected to flatly reject Mrs May’s proposals for bespoke access to the single market, particularly for financial services.
A signal of the EU stance was given last night in London by a senior aide to EU negotiator Michel Barnier. Stefaan De Rynck said Mrs May’s wish for free trade and harmonised regulations in some areas would not be acceptable, because of the danger it would undermine the single market.
Chancellor Philip Hammond told MPs last night a deal not including financial services would lack credibility.
Meanwhile motor giant Ford’s European chief Steven Armstrong has called for the UK to remain in a customs union after Brexit.
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