September 19, 2019 / 8:09 AM / a month ago

EU Council will be too late to negotiate Brexit deal: French source

PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Time to agree a Brexit deal is running out and it will be too late for European leaders to iron out a deal at a European Council meeting in Brussels in mid-October, a French diplomatic source said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The British and European Union flags are seen behind an empty podium which was reserved for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a scheduled news conference with Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Luxembourg, September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The French warning comes after President Emmanuel Macron met the Finnish prime minister in Paris on Wednesday.

“The idea was to say that time is running out and that we won’t be negotiating directly at the European Council in mid-October,” the source said.

Finnish media cited Prime Minister Antti Rinne as saying he and Macron had agreed an end-September deadline for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to present Europe with a concrete proposal to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The source said this had been the message already conveyed by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month.

After his meeting with Macron at the Elysee palace on Wednesday, the Finnish premier said Britain has until end-September to explain how they will avoid crashing out of the EU, according to Finnish news agency STT.

“If there is no proposals - and I believe that quite a few European country leaders will agree with the position we reached with Macron today - then, it’s over,” Rinne was quoted as saying.

“We are a bit worried over what is happening at the moment in Britain and the mess which is created in Europe,” he added

Separately, two senior EU diplomats said there was no firm deadline of Sept 30 and no deadline has been discussed among the 27, but one added that there was a realisation that the end of September was as late as the UK could go to avoid a failure at the Oct. 17-18 summit.

“The 30th is not a precise date discussed and agreed by the 27. But these issues are not easy to tackle. If you want to prepare properly for the summit, the 30th of September is already tight,” the EU diplomat told Reuters.

“If you are too late the council will not be able to produce any meaningful results.”

Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris, John Chalmers in Brussels and Virki Tarmo in Tallinn; Editing by Richard Lough

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