France takes steps to prepare for Brexit
Bill – Measures to prepare for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union – Communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting
Paris, 3 October 2018
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Minister for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, presented a bill enabling the government to take measures by decree to prepare for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
An agreement organizing the practical details of the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union is currently being negotiated. In accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, this withdrawal must, in principle, occur following a period of two years from the UK’s notification of its intention to exit the EU, i.e. on 30 March 2019. In order to leave the necessary time for the agreement to be ratified, the negotiations should be completed in autumn 2018.
Reaching such an agreement remains the primary goal of the government, the other member states and the European Union as a whole.
However, the possibility of a failure of the negotiations between the EU and the UK, or of one of the two parties failing to ratify, cannot be ruled out.
This is why the European Council of 29 June 2018 reiterated its invitation to the EU member states and institutions and all the stakeholders to step up their efforts to prepare for all eventualities.
In this context, the bill aims to give the government the means for this preparation, by empowering it, if necessary, to adopt by decree those measures governed by law with the member states’ competences.
These measures may concern, first of all, British individuals and legal entities who, on the day of the withdrawal, are subject to French law, particularly in terms of the right to entry and residence, employment, the exercise of activities subject to conditions, the civil service, or social rights and the right to social security benefits.
The government is very mindful of the situation and rights of French nationals who have settled in the United Kingdom. The government will take appropriate measures regarding the situation of British nationals in France. It will take into account the status granted by the UK to our nationals on its territory.
The measures the government takes by decree may also be aimed directly at safeguarding the interests of French nationals, for example by ensuring that their periods of insurance and employment in the UK, and academic and professional qualifications acquired or being acquired in the UK, are taken into account should they return to France.
Finally, to prepare as well as possible for a possible reintroduction of controls at the United Kingdom border, these measures will make it possible to adapt port, rail, airport and road facilities and infrastructures more quickly.
The content of the measures the government eventually adopts will depend on the outcome of the negotiations under way; the government may, among other things, decide not to adopt such measures if conditions are not met.
Furthermore, these measures are not intended to replace the contingency measures the European Union will take and cannot, in any event, come under an area of competence of the European Union. Their adoption will be subject to close consultation with the European Commission, in full respect of the principle of sincere cooperation resulting from Article 4, paragraph 3 of the Treaty on European Union, and coordination with the EU’s other member states.
Even in the event of a withdrawal agreement being concluded, the bill also provides for the government to adopt implementing measures for this withdrawal agreement, particularly for adaptations which would be required by the reintroduction of controls on goods and passengers travelling to or from the United Kingdom following the possible transition period.
Finally, a ratification bill is expected to be put before Parliament within six months of the decrees being published./.
European Union – Brexit – Excerpts from the interview given by Mme Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, to France Info
Paris, 4 October 2018
Q. – At the Council of Ministers’ meeting this morning, you presented a bill on Brexit to govern future relations between France and Britain. (…) “Move along, there’s nothing to see.” To me that slightly sums up what Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said at the end of the Conservative conference today. She promised Britons a bright future; she even did a few dance moves. Are you as optimistic as she is?
THE MINISTER – On Brexit?
Q. – On the bright future for Britain and on reaching an agreement between Britain and the European Union.
THE MINISTER – I’m proactive first of all. In other words, we want a good agreement; we’re not far away from one. More than 80% of the text of the agreement has already been agreed with the British.
Q. – The tough points remain.
THE MINISTER – Clearly the tough points remain. They’re the points that have persisted for a long time, for weeks. We haven’t managed to reach agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the withdrawal conditions on one specific point, namely how you handle the issue of Northern Ireland and the Irish border. We made proposals in December; Theresa May agreed to them. The moment they were put down in writing, she backed down. It’s up to her to put new proposals to us.
Q. – But you’re still relatively optimistic and calm.
THE MINISTER – Always calm and obviously proactive. But my job is also ensure that we’re ready for every scenario, that France is ready to protect its citizens and its businesses, both in the event of a withdrawal agreement, which we’ll sign if it’s beneficial, and in the event of no deal.
That’s why, this morning, I presented a bill to the Council of Ministers, a bill enabling us to legislate by decrees, which will be debated in the Senate from 5 November and which gives us scope to take all the necessary measures to ensure that our fellow citizens who are in the UK and would like to return, and that British nationals who are in France…
Q. – In a nutshell, there are 300,000 French people living in Britain today. If there’s a hard Brexit, to use the phrase, does it in fact threaten those French people?
THE MINISTER – There are people who’ve been there a long time and will stay. The issue – and we’re going to resolve it with this bill – is, for instance, a situation which crops up regularly: a French person with a British qualification wants to return to France. Until now, British qualifications have been recognized because they’re European qualifications. If we have a no-deal Brexit tomorrow and if there’s no French legislation, these qualifications will no longer be recognized. This obviously isn’t acceptable and we need to deal with it.
Q. – We’ll be practically on the eve of the European elections. We’ll know if it’s a hard Brexit or not. If it’s a hard Brexit, does everyone lose out from it, the European Union and Britain?
THE MINISTER – We’ll know before the end of this year if there’s a withdrawal agreement or not. It has to be before the end of the year because the agreement must be ratified by the British Parliament and the European Parliament before 30 March, the date the withdrawal comes into effect. There needs to be a bit of time.
Q. – But my question is, does everyone in fact lose out from there being no deal?
THE MINISTER – We’d have more to lose from a bad deal than no deal. But the least bad solution remains a good deal and it’s still possible. The best solution as far as the relationship between the UK and the 27 is concerned would be for the UK to remain in the European Union, but that isn’t what it has decided. (…)./.