Ger­mans soft on Brexit, but France plays hard­ball

Sunday Times - - WEEK IN REVIEW -

EU lead­ers soft­ened their stance on Brexit talks this week amid fears in Brus­sels that UK Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment could col­lapse if ne­go­ti­a­tions re­mained dead­locked.

An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, said she was now in “ab­so­lutely no doubt” the EU and the UK could make a suc­cess of ne­go­ti­a­tions. She ac­cepted for the first time that both sides must make con­ces­sions.

Em­manuel Macron, the French pres­i­dent, took a firmer line, say­ing that May’s of­fer of à20-bil­lion (R320-bil­lion) to set­tle the Brexit bill was “not half­way there”. May did not rule out pay­ing as much as à60-bil­lion as a fi­nal set­tle­ment.

In Syria, the cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic State caliphate, Raqqa, was cap­tured by USbacked forces who de­clared vic­tory on Tues­day, rais­ing flags over the last ji­hadist footholds af­ter a four-month bat­tle. The Sunni mil­i­tant group over­ran Raqqa in Jan­uary 2014, seiz­ing con­trol from rebel fac­tions op­posed to the rule of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad.

In Spain, King Felipe said his na­tion was fac­ing an “un­ac­cept­able se­ces­sion at­tempt” by Cat­alo­nia, as the Span­ish gov­ern­ment moved to clip the au­ton­o­mous re­gion’s wings af­ter last month’s ref­er­en­dum vote.

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