"Everything is on the table" in Brexit talks - Minister
European Union – Brexit – Statement by Mme Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, on her arrival at the General Affairs Council (excerpts)¹
Luxembourg, 16 October 2018
Q. – First of all, there’s been a phone call last night between your president and Theresa May. Two thoughts: one, to give a sense of that, and the idea there may be no summit if there is no agreement tomorrow. Do you think it should be either way? And secondly, if you’d to address Theresa May, what your advice would be to her before the summit?
THE MINISTER – Well, I would sum it up saying that the 27 are united in supporting Michel Barnier and the tremendous effort he has made until now, discussing with his British partner. We are supportive with Ireland, there has to be a comprehensive solution on the Irish border. And this is key not only for Ireland but for the 27 of all of us, it is a very important issue. We remain committed, we believe it is still possible to have a good agreement, everything is on the table. So we ask Theresa May to consider the offer that is made by EU27. We can have either a smooth Brexit or a rocky one.
We all prefer a smooth one, but we have to stand ready if there is no deal, we will be ready for that.
Q. – And the sense of the phone call? And your thoughts on the November summit coming or late tomorrow?
THE MINISTER – We’ll see what happens tomorrow. But definitively, there has to be significant progress and we have made significant progress until now, but there has to be progress on the border so we can finalize the details in November. So really, the clock is ticking. (…)
Q. – Regarding Brexit, you’ve said we risk having no deal. Is France ready to handle a no-deal scenario? Is France ready to handle thousands and thousands of lorries heading for the United Kingdom, and do we have enough customs officers to carry out all the checks?
THE MINISTER – We remain determined to have a good agreement, and we think it’s possible. It’s simply that it’s a matter of urgency now, and the moment of truth has arrived. But we’ve prepared ourselves for every scenario, including no deal. That’s why, along with Jean-Yves Le Drian a few days ago, I presented a bill at the Council of Ministers’ meeting enabling us to legislate by decree. That bill will be presented to Parliament, starting with the Senate at the beginning of November, so that we can take every necessary measure in the event of no deal.
This means measures for our citizens in the UK who return to France, it means measures for British citizens in our country, and it obviously means everything to do with travelling through the Channel Tunnel – the checks, checks which may be necessary in the event of no deal, or which may be necessary at the end of a transition period. As regards customs officers, the Ministry for Public Accounts has already started recruiting extra staff, and we’re working – this will be the purpose of the measures which are going to be adopted – to put in place infrastructure for the checks, to ensure that checks cause the least inconvenience to people when they enter the EU, since entering France also means entering the EU./.
¹ Some of the questions and Mme Loiseau’s answers were originally in English.