Europe Minister "cautious and confident" over Brexit

European Union – European army/Brexit – Excerpts from the interview given by Mme Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, to France Info

Paris, 13 November 2018

US/France

Q. – “Make France great again”: a new example of Donald Trump’s Twitter diplomacy, lambasting his French counterpart just two days after he went to Paris. The American President points to Emmanuel Macron’s low popularity, the unemployment level and the strength of nationalism in France. How do you react to those remarks?

THE MINISTER – Certainly, 140 characters and Twitter don’t help with complex thinking; we’ve had a demonstration of that this evening.

Q. – Do you think this is a diplomatic incident between France and the United States? How would you describe those tweets?

THE MINISTER – We work every day, all the time, with the United States.

Q. – With the United States or with President Trump?

THE MINISTER – With the United States and with, for example, everyone who was at the [Paris] Peace Forum and everyone who was at the Internet governance summit, i.e. representatives of civil society and big corporations. We’ve got a lot of things to do, there are lots of challenges to take up; what I read and what I hear makes me even more supportive of European sovereignty.

Q. – It isn’t the first time he’s criticized his partners; is it a diplomatic habit, in your opinion?

THE MINISTER – He has a unique style; I think we’ve all had time to notice that. What I’d like to say is that on 13 November, as we commemorate the victims of the Paris attacks, who can dispute Europe’s need to take even better control of its security and empower itself so as to ensure it’s capable of responding to those threatening it? No one, objectively.

European army

Q. –Basically, Donald Trump has again criticized the idea of a European army put forward by Emmanuel Macron last week, an idea also upheld – this is new – by Angela Merkel at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Why this idea of a European army? Do you understand the criticisms by Donald Trump, who sees it as an anti-NATO offensive?

THE MINISTER – It’s clearly not an anti-NATO offensive, but today we need to have more resources, and armies that work better together. You have to see, for example, that we’ve only just begun – this year, in 2018 – to ensure our European armies can travel unhindered across the European area. This has never been done until now. We need a solid European pillar of NATO. Let me remind you that in the NATO Charter there’s Article 5, which says we show solidarity with those who are attacked. That article has been used once, and in what direction? When the Europeans supported the United States in Afghanistan after 11 September. The United States has everything to gain from a European pillar of NATO that is solid, motivated and capable of acting.

Brexit

Q. – Regarding Brexit, a draft agreement has obviously been found; Theresa May will be submitting it to her government tomorrow; are you confident?

THE MINISTER – First of all, it’s a very positive step forward and I’d like to pay tribute, as I regularly do, to the work of the European negotiator, Michel Barnier, who for months, with his teams, has spared no effort to move towards a good agreement. That’s what we’d like, it’s what we want. Michel Barnier will go back to the European countries just as the British negotiator will go back to the government in London, and we’ll all look at the details of the agreement.

Q. – Behind these cautious words, are you confident? Can you tell us, for example, that with 90% [of a deal agreed] the prospect of a “no deal” is receding?

THE MINISTER – We’re both cautious and confident.

Q. – More cautious or more confident?

THE MINISTER – We’re going to look at what’s in the agreement. What we want is the UK’s orderly departure; we accept this, even though we regret it, but we want to fully protect Europeans’ interests. We never decided to weaken the European Union, it’s the British who’ve decided to leave. So we’re going to look at the details of the agreement, which sketches out the future of our relationship with the UK, and whether the future relationship fully reflects our interests. We’ve got very clear interests: for example, there should be fair competition tomorrow between British and European businesses, and sectors which are very important for us and could be impacted – I’m thinking of European fishermen, French fishermen – should be fully protected. We’re going to look at all that, and in that spirit – moving towards an agreement – because it’s what we’d like, a good agreement, bearing in mind that if we manage to sign it, it will have to be ratified notably by the British Parliament. This is why I’m continuing, this end, to prepare us for no deal, just in case. I can’t tell French citizens and French companies that we won’t be prepared. So we’ve got to do both at the same time. (…)./.

Published on 19/11/2018

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