Squabbles erupt as G7 leaders open summit in French resort
SPAT OVER ‘MR NO DEAL’ BREXITMacron opened the summit with a dinner at the base of a clifftop lighthouse overlooking Biarritz, where a menu of piperade, a Basque vegetable specialty, tuna and French cheeses awaited the leaders. Adding to the unpredictable dynamic between the G7 leaders are the new realities facing Brexit-bound Britain: dwindling influence in Europe and growing dependency on the United States. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson will want to strike a balance between not alienating Britain’s European allies and not irritating Trump and possibly jeopardizing future trade ties. Johnson and Trump will hold bilateral talks on Sunday morning. Johnson and Tusk sparred before the summit over who would be to blame if Britain leaves the EU on Oct. 31 without a withdrawal agreement. Tusk told reporters he was open to ideas from Johnson on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit when the two men meet. “I still hope that PM Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr No Deal,” said Tusk, who as council president leads the political direction of the 28-nation European Union. Johnson, who has said since he took office last month that he will take Britain out of the bloc on Oct. 31 regardless of whether a deal can be reached, later retorted that it would be Tusk himself who would carry the mantle if Britain could not secure a new withdrawal agreement. “I would say to our friends in the EU if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit then we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty,” Johnson told reporters, referring to the Irish border protocol that would keep the border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland open after Brexit. “If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr No Deal then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him, too,” Johnson said on his flight to France. Johnson is trying to persuade EU leaders to drop the backstop from a withdrawal agreement that was negotiated by his predecessor but rejected three times by the British Parliament as the United Kingdom struggles to fulfill a 2016 referendum vote to leave the bloc.
‘NOT THE WAY TO PROCEED’Despite the Brexit tensions, diplomats played down the likelihood of Trump and Johnson joining hands against the rest, citing Britain’s foreign policy alignment with Europe on issues from Iran and trade to climate change. “There won’t be a G5+2,” one senior G7 diplomat said. Indeed, Johnson said he would tell Trump to pull back from a trade war that is already destabilizing economic growth around the world. “This is not the way to proceed,” he said. “Apart from everything else, those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true.” Anti-summit protests have become common, and on Saturday thousands of anti-globalization activists, Basque separatists and “yellow vest” protesters marched peacefully across France’s border with Spain to demand action from the leaders. “It’s more money for the rich and nothing for the poor,” said Alain Missana, an electrician wearing a yellow vest - symbol of anti-government protests that have rattled France for months. EU leaders piled pressure on Friday on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over fires raging in the Amazon rainforest. Even so, Britain and Germany were at odds with Macron’s decision to pressure Brazil by blocking a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur group of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said not concluding the trade deal was “not the appropriate answer to what is happening in Brazil now.” The UK’s Johnson appeared to disagree with Macron on how to respond. “There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals and I don’t want to see that,” he said.
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