France has warned Britain to expect a bruising battle with the EU in the forthcoming negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian predicted the two sides would “rip each other apart” as they strove for advantage in the talks.
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, he made clear that Brussels will defend its interests when negotiations begin next month.
“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,” he said.
“But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.”
Mr le Drian, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, is the latest senior EU figure to warn that the negotiations will be difficult.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and chief negotiator Michel Barnier have both cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s aim to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year when the Brexit transition period runs out.
The EU has repeatedly warned Britain cannot expect to enjoy continued “high quality” market access if it insists on diverging from EU social and environmental standards.
There is expected to be a particularly tough fight over fishing rights, with the EU insisting continued access to UK waters must form part of any agreement.
Mr Johnson, in turn, has said the UK will act as an “independent coastal state” taking control of its own fisheries.