France’s pro-EU president left the door open for another extension of the divorce deadline earlier this week, but only if Britain decides to ask for more time to hold a second referendum. “Brexit is a lose-lose situation for Britain and Europe,” Mr Lemoyne told France 2 television. “After Brexit, the European Union must maintain a very close relationship with its British friends, in particular in the field of defence,” he said, after France’s Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May met in Normandy to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day operation that helped bring World War Two to an end. Asked whether Brexit is now “inevitable,” he replied: “The British people voted and I think that if the people have voted, their choice must be respected. We will see in a few years whether they make a different choice.”
Mr Lemoyne also commented on the United States’ increasingly aggressive rhetoric towards Europe, insisting it had forced the bloc to focus on fostering “peace and stability”.
Questioned over whether the US’s promise to negotiate a trade deal with Britain after Brexit meant it had “chosen its camp” and was deliberately stoking EU-UK tensions, he said: “Today’s world is riddled with tensions and marred by crises. We must, as a union, build lasting peace and stability.”
US President Donald Trump said during a visit to London on Monday that the US and Britain could soon strike an independent trade deal.
“Big Trade Deal is possible once UK gets rid of the shackles [of the EU]. Already starting to talk!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
However, Mr Macron stressed on Thursday that Brexit would not break the “friendship” between France and Britain.
“Nothing can ever break ties that have been bound in bloodshed and shared values… The force of our friendship will outlast current events,” he said during a D-Day commemoration ceremony.
But his words stood in stark contrast to his unbending stance on Brexit.
The pro-EU centrist was among those EU leaders firmly opposed to granting Britain a long extension of its date for divorce when it was moved from March until the end of October.
Mr Macron said on Monday that October 31 should be the “final” deadline for Britain’s much-delayed exit.
“I think this is the final, final deadline,” he said during a conference at the Elysée palace in Paris.
“I do believe that we now have to implement the British people’s decision. Except if the British people themselves decide something else,” Mr Macron added.
“That’s why I was always pictured as the tough guy in the room on this Brexit issue. But I do endorse such a role.”
However, he left the door open for another extension of the Brexit deadline in the event of a second referendum.
“It’s feasible if we have the perspective of either a new referendum or a totally new scheme which would be acceptable for the 27 and our negotiator.”
At least 25 EU governments are prepared to give the UK another extension, the Times reported on Friday.
“We hate it but in the end we’re going to give them another extension… No one wants to be seen as the one who pulls the plug,” a senior European source told the newspaper.
The revelation comes after several Tory leadership hopefuls promised to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt even said the UK could exit the bloc ahead of the current deadline.
Almost three years since the Brexit vote, lawmakers remain at loggerheads over how, when or even whether to leave the EU.