Brexit: "There will be border checks whatever deal is reached" - Minister

European Union – Opening of negotiations to establish a new partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom – Hearing of Mme Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces Committee and Senate European Affairs Committee (excerpts)

Paris, 19 February 2020

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Let’s be clear: the situation post-Brexit won’t be as it was before. Third-country status can’t be as advantageous as that of EU member state. Things won’t stay as they have been: the United Kingdom will no longer benefit from the Cohesion Policy, the CAP or Eurojust etc. We must make our businesses and our partners aware of this new reality.

Let’s not be divided on the priorities and let’s maintain a united front. This has been our strength these past three years.

On 3 February, Michel Barnier presented a draft mandate whose principles must reflect the EU’s interests. The mandate is due to be approved on Tuesday during the General Affairs Council of Ministers, so that the negotiations can be launched in the first week of March. The points on which we’ll be absolutely vigilant concern the situation of citizens, farmers, fishermen and businesses.

The partnership we’re going to build is unprecedented in its scope and depth. Beyond thematic issues, there are issues concerning governance, dispute settlement and sanctions. Boris Johnson doesn’t want the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to have that power. But we’ve got to monitor compliance with the commitments made and punish deviations! Let’s avoid repeating what has been done with Switzerland, [i.e.] gradually and without a common governance framework. Cross-cutting mechanisms must be established.

As far as competition conditions are concerned, we can’t propose zero tariffs and zero quotas to the UK unless there’s zero dumping. Whatever agreement is reached, there will be border checks: free trade – even maximum free trade – doesn’t mean no checks.

As regards fisheries, we’re pursuing three objectives: access to [UK] waters, resource management and the maintenance of current distribution keys.

These four subjects – governance, a trade agreement, a level playing field and fisheries – will be linked in the negotiation: we won’t agree on anything unless we’ve agreed on everything. This puts us in a position of strength.

For fisheries, the chosen date of 1 July is linked to the demands of the industry, which needs a bit of a clear idea of the way ahead, but there won’t be a separate fisheries agreement. The broad lines could be decided on by July.

Financial services, which are an important issue for the UK, aren’t part of the agreement. The EU decides unilaterally on granting financial equivalence to third countries: such a decision isn’t negotiable or permanent. The same goes for the flow of personal data.

As regards security and defence, we’re seeking to establish a close partnership with two pillars: internal security and foreign policy. The UK is now a third state. Certain programmes are open to third states, others aren’t, and we’ll make no exceptions.

We’re particularly mindful of national parliaments’ prerogatives and of keeping them informed and involved. Without yet knowing the content of the agreement, we can’t make any assumptions about whether or not it will be mixed. So it was decided that the issue is still unresolved. What is put before national parliaments will therefore depend on the content of the agreement.

We’re prepared for every scenario; the EU’s credibility depends on this. Infrastructure is in place in Normandy’s and Brittany’s ports, in Calais and Boulogne etc.; certain provisions of the ordinances will have to be renewed; mechanisms remain in abeyance, but we’ll be able to activate them when the time comes.

In conclusion, I want to repeat, in a spirit of great friendship with the UK, that you can’t have one foot in and one foot out. We aren’t in a position of weakness up against the UK, we aren’t going cap in hand and our principles are clear and firm. (…)./.

European Union – Statement by Mme Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, on her arrival at the General Affairs Council (excerpt)

Brussels, 17 February 2020

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As you know, the French position on Brexit is very straightforward. We’re absolutely open to swiftly reaching an agreement that can offer – as Boris Johnson wants – zero customs tariffs and zero quotas. But we’re also very clear: this must be capable of being done with zero dumping. For the past 47 years we’ve found a way to have fair, balanced, honest relations. And we’ve been able to trade, on both sides of the Channel, for 47 years. We in the European Union didn’t choose Brexit. We can’t go and see our farmers, our businesses, our fishermen and tell them: so that’s it, for a reason you didn’t choose, which also isn’t what we ourselves chose politically, well, you’re now facing competition that ultimately comes from quite near you, from people we know very well who are going to apply different standards. The Green Deal is meaningless in the European Union if we accept that products which don’t respect, for example, the efforts we’ll be making on pesticides, biodiversity, chemical standards and carbon prices – if those goods come from an area that doesn’t comply with our standards.

So my point is, first of all, that we really must bear in mind that there will be checks whatever agreement we reach, there will be checks to ensure the safety of goods, to ensure the commitments made by the United Kingdom are honoured, and I think we must have regulatory consistency. We can hugely open up the internal market, if we have rules that are still close [to each other] and consistent. I think the European Union’s decision-making autonomy depends on it. We’re an area that must be able to set its own rules. If we set rules for ourselves, you can well imagine that there can’t be, as Mrs Merkel said, a competitor on our doorstep who systematically chooses to do things differently. Then our businesses, our fishermen, our farmers would be in danger. (…)./.

Published on 16/03/2020

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