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Britain ready to make concessions in EU talks, finance minister says

Ben Stansall, AFP | British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in Downing Street in London on March 15.

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Wednesday that Britain would need to be ready to make concessions during the lengthy negotiations that will precede Britain officially leaving the bloc.

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“Every negotiation is about give and take on both sides, and we have to go into this discussion understanding and accepting that we will have to do some give and take to get the best possible deal for Britain,” Hammond told Britain’s Sky News.

“It has to be a deal that works for Britain and for its European Union partners, that’s the only way you can get a deal done. But I’m confident as we’ve explored over the last nine months with our EU partners that we have a sufficient meeting of minds on this issue,” he said.

Hammond was speaking to the media just hours before Prime Minister Theresa May officially starts the process of Britain leaving the European Union by triggering Article 50 of the bloc’s Lisbon Treaty.

Hammond also said that he was confident a mutually beneficial customs arrangement could be found with the EU that would allow for the efficient exchange of goods even after Brexit.

It would not benefit anyone to have “lines of trucks” backed up at the border with Europe, Hammond said in an interview with BBC radio.

“It is not in the interests of French farmers who produce fresh produce coming into the UK every day that there are lines of trucks. So I am very confident that we will not get an outcome that is a worst case outcome for everybody. That would be ridiculous.”

Brexit: How did we get here?

EU officials have said they want Britain to pay a Brexit fee before they consider a new trade deal, estimating that the UK’s share of EU debts, pensions and outstanding bills could be up to €60 billion.

But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has urged May not to agree to a large payout and Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has also dismissed any suggestion of a "Brexit bill".

Hammond went on to say that leaving the EU would ensure that Britain regains sovereign control over immigration as well as reassert the supremacy of Britain’s parliament and court.

‘Severe consequences’

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator warned Monday that both sides would face "severe consequences" if Britain leaves the EU without a deal in place. Writing in the Financial Times, Michel Barnier said he hopes for an "ambitious free trade agreement" with Britain.

"It goes without saying that a no-deal scenario, while a distinct possibility, would have severe consequences for our people and our economies. It would undoubtedly leave the UK worse off,” Barnier wrote.

Barnier, who served briefly as France’s foreign minister, also went on to warn against a disruption to cross-border supply chains.

"Severe disruption to air transport and long queues at the Channel Port of Dover are just some of the many examples of the negative consequences of failing to reach a deal,” he said. “Others include the disruption of supply chains, including the suspension of the delivery of nuclear material to the UK.”

He added that he wants to "immediately address" the issues affecting EU citizens now living and working in the UK and the British citizens who have settled elsewhere in Europe.

May tried to address the status of long-term foreign residents before triggering Article 50 but Germany refused to take part until official Brexit negotiations had begun.

Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate who is the favourite to win the French presidential election in a May 7 run-off, said Wednesday that his priority is also to ensure EU nationals enjoy protections during the Brexit process.

“My priority will be to protect the European Union and the interests of the European citizen,” he said after a meeting with London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan. “And my deep wish is to have Great Britain with the European Union ... in a new relationship.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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