French President Emmanuel Macron shares a laugh with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as they visit the assembly line of the Airbus A350 in Toulouse, southwestern France, Wednesday, Oct.16, 2019. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting in southern France, one day before a key EU summit that may approve a divorce deal with Britain. (AP Photo/Frederic Scheiber, Pool)

Macron and Merkel try to showcase unity as Brexit looms

October 16, 2019 - 10:12 am

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel sought Wednesday to demonstrate the solidity of the French-German relationship at a meeting in southern France, one day before a key EU summit that may approve a divorce deal with Britain.

They started with a visit to the headquarters of plane-maker Airbus, widely seen as a symbol of European industrial cooperation, near the city of Toulouse. The company, which is holding its 50th anniversary celebrations this year, has production and manufacturing facilities in countries including Germany, Spain and Britain.

Macron and Merkel had lunch inside a training A350 airbus — where a long table had been set — with high school students and apprentices preparing for a career in aircraft industry.

They were then due to hold bilateral talks in Toulouse, before a joint French-German cabinet meeting.

Macron and Merkel were to discuss Brexit as EU and British officials were scrambling to strike a deal before Thursday's summit in Brussels — the last one planned for before Britain's scheduled departure from the EU on Oct. 31.

The French and German delegations, including key ministers from both governments, were also planning talks on global trade tensions, the fight against climate change, European defense projects and how to defend EU copyright rules, Macron's office said.

French and German defense ministers will try to elaborate common rules on arms exports during a defense security council. Both countries decided to halt weapons exports to Turkey after the offensive in northeast Syria last week. Germany has also banned defense industry exports to Saudi Arabia over the war in Yemen — while France has not.

Later Wednesday, after a joint news conference, Macron and Merkel will welcome incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a dinner with members of the European Round Table of Industrialists, a group gathering over 50 major European multinational companies.

They are expected to discuss the U.S. decision to put tariffs worth $7.5 billion on EU goods like wine, cheese and olive oil, following a green light from the World Trade Organization in a case involving illegal EU subsidies for Airbus. The tariffs, to take effect Friday, will be 10% for EU aircraft and 25% for everything else.

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