The situation has been described as a “s***storm” by one Brussels official who voiced concern about the lack of cohesion within the bloc with respect to the pandemic. Downing Street is understood to believe the ban has been timed to put pressure on the UK Government in ongoing post-Brexit trade negotiations, with barely a week to go before the end of the transition period.
However, one Whitehall official suggested the strategy could backfire, telling Politico’s Playbook: “If ever we needed a reason to show why we’re leaving the EU, the French trying to take food off our shelves for Christmas out of spite should do it.”
One unnamed minister was quoted as shouting: “Macron is a c***.” While Boris Johnson was “incandescent” with anger.
Separately, Times deputy political editor Steve Swinford offered an insight into the chaos swirling around Westminster, especially after Ministers were briefed by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Friday.
His assessment had disturbed Ministers including Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
One source said: “Everyone was blindsided. I don’t think anyone in the room expected it to be quite so bad.”
A senior aide added: “It’s all f***ed.”
READ MORE: Macron making ‘miscalculation’ by assuming UK will return for talks
“The curve is rising anyway, it is not going well.
“There is a lot of trouble because the UK is vaccinating and we are not.
“It is hardly surprising there is a political reaction based on what the politicians in London were saying.
“The scientists do not know yet. Political leaders listen to other political leaders and if they hear the UK, which has genomic research, saying there is a dangerous new variant then they act.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk yesterday, David Jones MP, deputy chairman of the eurosceptic European Research Group, suggested Mr Macron’s hardline stance on Brexit – and particularly fishing – would cut no ice with the UK Government.
He told Express.co.uk: “It looks like Macron is putting his personal ambitions for a second term ahead of achieving a good outcome to the talks.
“He doesn’t appear to appreciate that people in the UK are thoroughly sick of what seems a never-ending process.
“We are prepared to do a deal that reflects our sovereignty and our right to control our own fishing waters.
“If, however, the EU won’t agree that, then we will leave on 31 December. It’s as simple as that.
“Any suggestion we will return to the table is for the birds.”