Access to single market requires free movement - Minister

European Union – Brexit – Reply by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, to a question in the Senate

Paris, 1 December 2016

You’re right, the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union. We regret it, we didn’t wish the referendum to be held, it wasn’t being demanded by the other EU member states, but such was the sovereign, democratic and free choice of the British people, who were consulted on the issue.

France, like all the member states, must approach the forthcoming negotiations with principles displaying clarity and firmness.

Clarity means, first of all – first principle –, that there can be no pre-negotiations before Article 50 is invoked. From this point of view, the French President has been extremely firm, recalling that it’s up to the British Prime Minister – as she has pledged – to trigger it. Mrs May has said she’ll do so next March. She may be prompted to consult the House of Commons before this, but the notification must be made as quickly as possible so that, within the two-year period stipulated by the treaty, the UK can be taken out of the European Union. In particular, we’d like this to be the case before the new European Commission and European Parliament are in place.

Second principle: all the member states are very mindful of maintaining a link between what are called “the four freedoms of movement”: of goods, services, capital and people. There can be no question of a future third country continuing to have access to the single market while not respecting the freedom of movement of people.

Third principle – in a way, the main one: no third country can or will be able to enjoy a more favourable status than a member state. It’s not possible to be outside the EU, to no longer be subject to its obligations, contributions to its budget and compliance with its rules, and at the same time continue benefiting from those common policies that interest you, making a sort of choice between some and others.

So we’ll be crystal clear: the unity of Europeans is of decisive importance, and it’s necessary to ensure very great cohesion between the Twenty-Seven. We can’t contemplate other states imitating the UK tomorrow, with a view to keeping what suits them but without showing solidarity or contributing to the European Union’s cohesion. It’s these principles which are going to guide us.

From now on, as we stated during September’s Bratislava summit with the 27 heads of state and government, we’ve got to concentrate on the future of the 27-member European Union, its cohesion, the importance of its security, defence policy, investment and young people. That’s the priority for us./.

Published on 12/12/2016

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