Paris (AFP) - Britain's vote to quit the European Union won't affect negotiations on a huge EU-US trade deal aimed at creating the world's largest free trade and investment area, the bloc's top trade official said Thursday.
"We are determined to continue these negotiations. They are important for Europe, for our economy, for our jobs, for our business people, for our consumers, and it makes a lot of sense to do it even with 27," EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told France Info radio.
"Europe is the biggest market in the world. It will remain so, even without the UK," said Malmstroem, who has just returned from trade talks in the United States.
"The Americans are determined to continue negotiations with us," she said, adding that EU leaders had all agreed at a summit this week in Brussels that "the talks must continue."
Malmstroem said Britain's vote last week to leave the EU "changes nothing" in the process, with both the US and EU working "very intensively" to try reach a deal on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) before the end of Barack Obama's presidency in January.
Her assurances that all EU members are onboard ran counter to comments by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday.
"I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement," Valls said, declaring the deal which has faced mounting criticism in Europe, especially in France and Germany, would serve as "a breeding ground for populism" and be bad for Europe's economy.
Critics in Europe are particularly fearful of the impact on agriculture and the environment.