Theresa May has been warned not to expect a Brexit breakthrough in talks with Emmanuel Macron tomorrow.
The UK’s former ambassador to France said Mr Macron was “the last person” to want to break ranks with the rest of the EU to push for a softer stance from Brussels.
Lord Ricketts also criticised foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s repeated warnings about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, saying it was obvious to continental leaders that the UK was not prepared for such a scenario.
The prime minister will cut short her Italian holiday to hold talks with the French president at his country retreat.
Lord Ricketts, who was the UK’s ambassador in Paris from 2012 to 2016, said the staunchly pro-EU Mr Macron was unlikely to give ground and questioned the government’s plan of trying to deal directly with national leaders instead of the European Commission in Brussels.
He said Mr Macron “doesn’t believe in softening” the position on Brexit as “he is a passionate pro-European”.
“Secondly, he is the last person to want to break ranks with what has been quite an impressively disciplined EU side,” the crossbench peer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I’m all for Theresa May going and talking to Macron, there’s lots to talk about – security and all sorts of other things – but I think we have got to accept we have got to do the hard yards of negotiating in Brussels, we are not going to find the French or any other major country wanting to break ranks.”
He added that the UK “can’t expect to do negotiating in Paris and in Berlin” and “I still don’t understand why the new foreign secretary is going around brandishing this threat of no deal, as if it’s going to make European countries more likely to soften their position”.
The problem with Mr Hunt’s tactic was that “everyone can see the government are totally unprepared”, he added.
Bruno Bonnell, a member of Mr Macron’s En Marche movement, compared Brexit to a divorce where “love is gone”.
He told Today: “Divorce is always this way. There are just two sad teams regretting, deep down, what is happening here and effectively taking the position of their own interest.”