France's President, Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN
France's President, Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

London — French President Emmanuel Macron urged fellow European leaders to maintain their unified stance as the Brexit talks move on to phase two, warning of the dangers of each pursuing their own interests.

Last month, leaders of the EU-27 [the 27 EU countries involved in Brexit negotiations, excluding the UK] gave the green light for discussions to progress to the second phase — negotiations on a future trade deal between the UK and the EU, after hammering out the outline of a deal on Britain’s divorce from the bloc. Asked by the Daily Telegraph how the talks were going, Macron said the EU would maintain its unified approach of seeking a common negotiating mandate.

"This is the right method as it avoids divisions and once again allows us to preserve the collective interest," Macron said late on Wednesday, the Telegraph reported on Thursday. He then went on to warn about the "prisoner’s dilemma", a situation in game theory whereby two self-interested individuals fail to co-operate, even if it would be in their best interest.

Detailed negotiations on a future trade deal won’t start until March, though European Council president Donald Tusk has said exploratory talks can begin before then. The risk of the EU position fracturing in the second phase of talks is greater than in the first phase because of the differing existing social and economic relationships with Britain.

"Each of us can have our own interests," Macron said. "That’s what the prisoner’s dilemma is all about. Everyone can have an interest in negotiating on their own, and think they can negotiate better than their neighbour. If we do that, it is probable that, collectively, we will create a situation which is unfavourable to the EU — and thus to each one of us."

The UK is already looking to find chinks in the EU armor. While EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier has said Britain can’t negotiate a bespoke trade deal that includes services because no such model yet exists, Prime Minister Theresa May, last month, cited comments by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni as evidence that other EU leaders are open to Britain carving out a custom-made deal.


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