Brexit trade talks have turned nasty after France's Foreign Minister warned Britain and the EU will "rip each other apart".
Jean-Yves le Drian made the gloomy prediction as Brussels and London face a race against time to nail down a trade deal before a December 31 deadline.
Boris Johnson wants a Free Trade Agreement like the one the EU struck with Canada – but that took seven years. And the PM has refused to extend a 'transition period' to 2023, which would give more time.
France's Foreign Minister made clear that Brussels will defend its interests when negotiations begin in earnest next month.
He told the annual Munich Security Conference: "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."
Mr le Drian is a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, who repeatedly used hardball tactics when the UK was trying to negotiate an exit deal from the EU.
But he is only the latest senior EU figure to warn 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 full deal by December 31.
And the EU has warned Britain cannot expect "high quality" market access if it insists on its own rules on workers and the environment.
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.
But Downing Street has admitted any deal will not be "frictionless" – which will mean new tariffs on goods from 1 January 2021, even if a trade deal is struck.
If it isn't, the penalty could be much higher – with billions of pounds of trade reverting back to high default World Trade Organisation tariffs when it crosses the border.
Cabinet minister George Eustice today said the French minister had used "colourful language" but he insisted there could be a sensible agreement.
Sky News, however, reported tensions are already rising – with a UK government source claiming Brussels' demands ahead of the talks are "unreasonable and ridiculous".
According to Sky, the EU could ask to police UK subsidies and ask the government to align with EU standards forever.
Britain's stance will become clearer tonight with the first major speech by the UK's trade negotiator David Frost.
The Daily Mail reports he will demand the same terms as Canada, South Korea and Japan – not a special or bespoke deal.
A government spokesman said: "We want a relationship based on friendly co-operation between sovereign equals."
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