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    Brexit deal ‘limits’ UK’s ‘ability to be sovereign’ says Beaune

    And he also suggested members of the EU27 needed to fall into line behind the Porto Declaration signed by all 27 members of the European Council in the Portuguese capital last month, which is aimed at “promoting social cohesion and prosperity”. Brussels’ sluggish vaccine rollout has been the subject of much international criticism, especially with regard to France, where vaccination rates currently lag behind both the UK and the US.

    However, France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs opted not to dwell on such details during an interview with French newspaper Le Monde.

    Mr Beaune was quizzed specifically about the declaration, which is seen as a bid to address inequalities that have widened as a result of the pandemic – but one which has raised eyebrows given the text is not legally binding.

    Mr Beaune crowed: “During the crisis, the European social model was much more protective than that of the United States, with shock absorbers, high social spending, but also the various mechanisms put in place, such as partial unemployment or public aid to employees, households and businesses. Europeans have realised this and should be proud of it.

    Clement Beaune

    Clement Beaune is also a frequent critic of Brexit (Image: GETTY)

    US President Joe Biden

    US President Joe Biden (Image: GETTY)

    “The Porto summit took place at a pivotal moment when we are beginning to project ourselves into the post-crisis period, to study how to strengthen the European model to respond to the anxieties of citizens, especially young people.”

    He insisted: “It’s not technocratic or distant. The declaration strengthens the basis of social rights adopted in Gothenburg in 2017 and rolled out across Europe, such as parental leave and, soon, European minimum wages.

    “It was supported by the significant involvement of the social partners.

    “The object is to demonstrate that Europe is not a competitive jungle that pulls down to the detriment of citizens: on the contrary, it can and must protect.”

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    Clement Beaune Emmanuel Macron

    Clement Beaune is a close ally of French President Emmanuel Macron (Image: GETTY)

    Mr Beaune also brushed off reservations about the declaration from within the bloc.

    He said: “You have to be lucid. The EU’s social competencies remain limited and, although progress has been made since 2017, a number of states still need to be convinced to get on board.

    “There are two types of reluctance. Those of the Nordic countries, first of all, which are manifested in particular around the directive on minimum wages.

    “They fear that the quality of their social model will be eroded by Europe, or that it will interfere with their national collective bargaining – an unfounded fear.”

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    Nigel Farage

    Nigel Farage was deeply critical of Mr Beaune in December (Image: GETTY)

    Coronavirus vaccinations

    France continues to lag behind the UK and US with respect to vaccinations (Image: Express)

    He added: “The countries of the East, on the other hand, fear that Europe will destroy their competitive advantages.

    “Obviously, Bulgaria, Romania or Hungary will not be able to meet western wage standards overnight.

    “These countries must nevertheless understand that this movement is not against them, but against social dumping. Socially empowering is in their best interest.”

    Mr Beaune has ruffled feathers in the UK on a number of occasions with various pronouncements with respect to Brexit.

    Coronavirus stats worldwide

    Coronavirus stats worldwide (Image: Express)

    Last month he lay down the law in relation to the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, insisting it “must be wholly respected”.

    He added: “This is what we expect from the United Kingdom.

    “That does not mean there cannot be flexibility and ways of applying the protocol which reduce trade friction.

    “I hope this is only a period of adjustment that we are seeing, and not a broader will to provoke the EU.”

    EU budget factions

    EU budget factions mapped (Image: Express)

    Prior to that, in December, he appeared to aim a barb at the UK over the decision to bar UK lorries from travelling to France as a result of concerns of an emerging coronavirus strain known as the Kent variant.

    He tweeted a picture of lorries parked at Dover, commenting: “For all the pseudo-patriots who praise the permanent closure of borders every day.”

    In response, former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told Express.co.uk: “The arrogance of these people knows no bounds.

    “No Deal is better than an agreement with people that hate us.”

    (Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)


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