France calls for "spirit of responsibility" on Brexit

European Union – Brexit/telephone conversation between M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, and British Prime Minister Theresa May – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic

Paris, 30 March 2017

The French President spoke on the telephone to British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mrs May recalled that the United Kingdom had decided to trigger the process of withdrawal from the European Union. In line with the notification letter sent to the European Council yesterday, she set out the approach her government wished to take to the coming discussions.

The President emphasized that the notification was a fundamental step, because it began the two-year period stipulated by the treaties for negotiating the UK’s withdrawal.

He reminded Mrs May of the principles of the negotiations. They should go ahead clearly and constructively, in order to dispel uncertainties and fully comply with the rules and interests of the 27-strong European Union.

With this in mind, the President said that discussions would initially have to begin on withdrawal arrangements, particularly with regard to citizens’ rights and the obligations arising from the commitments made by the UK.

On the basis of the progress thus made, we could begin discussions on the framework of future relations between the UK and the European Union, in accordance with Donald Tusk’s letter on behalf of the European Council./.

European Union – Brexit/United Kingdom’s triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union - Communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting (excerpts)

Paris, 30 March 2017

The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Minister of State for European Affairs made a statement on the United Kingdom’s triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

1) On 29 March, as she had pledged, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave formal notification of her country’s intention to leave the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The government regrets but respects this decision.

The decision will enable the negotiations to begin:

- it will first be the responsibility of the 27-strong European Council to decide on guidelines laying down the collective positions and principles for the European Union’s negotiations with the United Kingdom. This will be the focus of a meeting which the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is convening on 29 April;

- on the basis of these guidelines, the Council will give the European Commission clear negotiating directives to negotiate on behalf of the European Union, which will be the responsibility of Michel Barnier;

- the negotiations will then be able to start, probably as from June. They will be closely monitored by the European Council and the Council.

2) The negotiations conducted under Article 50 concern the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The negotiations will last two years and will have to be concluded by the Council according to a qualified majority of the 27, after approval by the European Parliament. In particular, they will relate to:

- the rights of European citizens in the UK and of British citizens on EU territory;

- the UK’s fulfilment of all the obligations resulting from its decision to leave the EU and acceptance of the commitments, payments and guarantees it entails;

- management of the external borders, in particular as regards the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will require very special attention in order to safeguard the achievements of the peace process while ensuring compliance with European rules.

Concurrently, the 27 will have to decide on the relocation of the agencies established in the UK: the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency. French bids exist in both cases.

A second set of negotiations will aim to prepare the framework of future relations between the 27-strong EU and the UK as a third country. It will not be possible for these discussions to begin until the arrangements for the UK’s departure from the EU have been precisely clarified.

This sequencing of the two sets of negotiations is essential in order to guarantee the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU and limit uncertainties as far as possible.

In her notification letter, the British Prime Minister states that she would like a deep and special partnership with the EU, in particular with an ambitious free trade agreement.

The negotiations on the framework of future relations with the UK will potentially concern many sectors, whether they are currently subject to the internal market (goods, services, capital and people) or to common policies.

France will be vigilant in order to safeguard and strengthen the EU’s cohesion and the protection of its interests in all the areas concerned. This will mean the 27 clearly defining the principles that will have to govern those future relations. No state must be able, outside the EU, to enjoy the advantages reserved for member states.

These future relations will have to comply fully with the Community legal system, based in particular on the EU’s decision-making autonomy, the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the integrity of the internal market and the indivisibility of the four freedoms, beginning with the free movement of people. This will also require respect for fair competition between the UK and the EU to be guaranteed, by ensuring conditions for trade in goods, services and capital which are fair and verifiable in the long term, including by adapting, as far as is needed, the European instruments necessary to this end.

3) France is prepared for these negotiations. It organized itself the very day after the referendum of 23 June 2016, setting up, under the aegis of the General Secretariat for European Affairs, a working group bringing together all the directors general and directors of the relevant government departments.

This interministerial work will continue in order to ensure the best defence of French interests in the negotiations and prepare France as effectively as possible for the UK’s departure. In this context, the members of the government are fully mobilized, including by talking to the stakeholders concerned and professional organizations. This work, too, will be continued.

These unprecedented negotiations will be complex. Armed with its long-standing and deep ties with the UK, France will approach them in a constructive spirit, showing the necessary vigilance and full determination to help also strengthen the European Union (...)./.

European Union – Brexit - Press conference by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Paris, 29 March 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wanted to speak here, in the Quai d’Orsay’s Clock Room, on the day when the British Prime Minister officially sent her notification, by letter under Article 50 of the European treaty, that the United Kingdom wished to officially leave the European Union. Clearly it’s no surprise, because the event had been announced, but nevertheless it’s no ordinary event.

As I had the opportunity to say again on Saturday, Brexit has, in a way, destroyed a taboo: that of the irreversibility of the European enterprise. At the same time, this letter arrived a few days after the Rome Treaty’s 60th anniversary, which led to the adoption of a strong declaration by the 27 members of the European Union.

While this notification stage was expected, it has an advantage: it brings clarity. On the one hand, the will of the British people will be respected; on the other, it’s up to the 27 members of the European Union to implement their shared determination to strengthen the EU, and that’s the spirit of the Rome declaration that was adopted on Saturday.

I’m here in the Clock Room because I want to send a message, a strong belief. It’s in the interests of France and the Europeans to continue together what they’ve patiently built. And it began here, in this room, with the declaration by Robert Schuman, Foreign Minister, on 9 May 1950. It was five years after the war, in a difficult situation. And it was, first of all, a message of reconciliation and a hand outstretched to Germany. That hand was taken and it made possible that first stage of the European enterprise, namely the European Coal and Steel Community and then, a few years later, the Rome Treaty, which led us to what we are. That strength, that union – more then ever in the unstable context we’re experiencing – must be reaffirmed with conviction and force.

And so it’s in this spirit that we’re going to embark on this new stage in the history of the European enterprise.

In the negotiations beginning with the UK, what matters for France is the unity of the 27 in their determination to uphold the European interest in the forthcoming negotiations. This unity is based on some shared principles. We’ve identified them.

Firstly, the negotiation must be orderly, methodical and conducted by the Commission, with a negotiator who has been appointed, Michel Barnier, on the basis of the guidelines and mandate that are going to be provided by the European Council and the Council in a few weeks’ time.

And we must also remember a principle, namely the indivisibility of the four freedoms relating to the movement of goods, capital, services and people in the European Union, as part of the single market.

Finally, it’s a rejection of an “à-la-carte” Europe where it’s possible to take it or leave it depending on one’s preferences or interests. The European Union is a balance. It’s a balance between rights and responsibilities. The one doesn’t go without the other and, as I’ve had the opportunity to say several times, there will be no cherry-picking, there will be no “à-la-carte” Europe. And we must stick to this line of conduct.

So France is embarking on these negotiations in a clear and calm frame of mind.

They will indeed be difficult negotiations, but we must approach them constructively, with respect for the UK, and our approach is in no way to want to punish a country that voted the way it wanted. The UK voted and the UK decided to leave. Theresa May’s letter is clear. So we must ensure that the negotiations are conducted on the basis of clarity, which, for many issues – I’m thinking of security –, doesn’t mean cooperation with the UK is going to stop. It will continue and it’s necessary. But the UK knows full well that leaving the European Union has consequences that it will have to take on board. That’s what Theresa May recognizes herself in the letter she sent the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

So it’s through a spirit of responsibility that it will be possible to carry through these negotiations on separation, which, by virtue of Article 50, will have to be completed within two years. Moreover, within two years we’ll have another rendez-vous, namely the next elections to the European Parliament. So it’s desirable for these negotiations not to go on too long.

After the negotiations on separation, there will be other negotiations, namely on organizing he future relations between the 27-strong European Union and the United Kingdom.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is France’s point of view. Thank you./.

European Union – Brexit - Statement by the 27 heads of state and government on Britain’s notification of withdrawal under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union¹

Brussels, 29 March 2017

Statement by the European Council (1)

Today, the European Council received a letter from the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, notifying the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the European Union. This notification follows the referendum of 23 June 2016 and starts the withdrawal process under Article 50 of the Treaty [on European Union, TUE]. We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow.

For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for the negotiations by the European Council. These guidelines will set out the overall positions and principles in light of which the Union, represented by the European Commission, will negotiate with the United Kingdom.

In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimize the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states. Therefore, we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.

We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner.

President Tusk has convened the European Council on 29 April 2017./.

(1) Following the notification under Article 50 TEU, the member of the European Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or in decisions concerning it.

¹Source of English text: European Council website.

Ambassador Bermann speaks on BBC Radio 4 Today programme concerning Brexit

Published on 13/04/2017

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