France wants "ambitious partnership" with UK - Minister
European Union – Statement by Mme Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, on her arrival at the General Affairs Council (Article 50) (excerpts)¹
Brussels, 20 July 2018
Q. – What is your opinion of what is in the White Paper, what the UK is proposing?
THE MINISTER – Today the first priority is to work on the withdrawal agreement. We have to be ready in October to adopt the withdrawal agreement, because after that you have to ratify it in Britain and we have to ratify it with the European Parliament. So this is the priority, and I look forward to hearing what Michel Barnier has to tell us about the negotiation session, and whether there has been progress on Ireland and on the backstop, because we need to be waterproof on Ireland. Then, we will work on a framework for the future relationship. We have, of course, looked carefully at the White Paper, but we have also witnessed that there have been changes asked by the British Parliament regarding the future relationship. So we need to know where the British negotiator is on the future relationship, we have to work on a framework. Basically you know our position, because we have stated it publicly from the start. We want to have an ambitious partnership with Britain, we want to work with Britain, with a trade agreement and on internal and external security, because it is a very important partner for us, but we have to protect the consistency of the single market and we have to make sure that we keep our autonomy of decision.
Q. – On the Irish issue, the UK government says it cannot accept a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and the EU has shown flexibility on that.
THE MINISTER – Well we don’t want a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but we want a solution which is consistent with the single market and with our rules. So in December, there was an agreement between our British partner and the EU 27 on principles including a backstop if nothing else works. Until now, we have not seen another solution which would be proposed and accepted by the 27. So we have to decide on the backstop, and if, in the future we find something smarter and which provides us with no border but the consistency of the single market, let’s decide it. But until now, we have to be serious with the backstop.
Q. – Is it everything in the White Paper which the EU is actually willing to accept?
THE MINISTER – Well, it is good that there is a White Paper, because we have been waiting for quite a while for a British position on the future relationship, but now our principles are well-known by our British partners and we will work on the basis of our principles and see to what extent our British partner fully gets it, including the British Parliament, because you are mentioning the White Paper but now we know that there have been amendments to different provisions in Britain, which makes it even harder for the rest to discuss with our British partners, but we really want to have an ambitious partnership with Britain, providing that our principles are respected. /.
¹Mme Loiseau spoke in English.