President on Brexit: "We’re ready for a no-deal"

Foreign policy – G7 summit/Iran/United States/Amazonia/Brazil/Mercosur/Brexit – Interview given by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, to France 2 (excerpt)

Biarritz, 26 August 2019

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Q. – There’s been a failure at the [G7] summit, namely Brexit. As Boris Johnson himself said on leaving, there’s a profound disagreement between the Europeans and Britain. He’s fallen into the arms of Donald Trump, who is promising him a tremendous trade agreement. Aren’t you afraid of this hard Brexit which is in store? The impression is that we’ve taken another step towards this hard Brexit, which would also be a disaster for the French economy, not only…

THE PRESIDENT – For the British, above all.

Q. – And for us too. Our largest trade surplus is with Britain.

THE PRESIDENT – I think you’re being a bit harsh on this issue, because Brexit was never on the agenda of this summit, and for one simple reason.

Q. – You’ve talked to Boris Johnson about it.

THE PRESIDENT – No, I talked about it when Boris Johnson came to Paris on Thursday.

Q. – And not since?

THE PRESIDENT – Not at all here. Of course not.

Q. – Hasn’t Brexit been mentioned at all at the G7 summit?

THE PRESIDENT – I promise you we haven’t discussed it for a single second.

Q. – That’s astonishing. Isn’t that a mistake?

THE PRESIDENT – Absolutely not, because you also have to know… You have to be respectful of everyone and know what you’re talking about. The European Union is currently 28 member states. The G7 is a few industrial powers. Do you think our European partners would be happy for a few Europeans, who are around the table because they’re the largest, to negotiate on their behalf? The European Union doesn’t work like that, and luckily that’s our strength. How do you manage Brexit at European Union level? The 27 of us defined a mandate that we gave to a representative, namely Michel Barnier, who is acting on behalf of the Commission, and we’re acting together and deciding together. So it was right and proper for us not to mention it in that format. It doesn’t concern Canada or Japan. We’re not going to wash our dirty linen in public. And also, it concerns us. Moreover, what is Brexit? There too, it was the British people who took the sovereign decision to leave the European Union – never forget that. It’s not us who are driving them out. The second thing is that the British government, with a mandate from the people, discussed an agreement with the European Union for two years and came to an agreement. And now the British government can’t manage to ratify that agreement in Parliament. So today Brexit is a British political crisis. On our side there’s clarity.

Q. – But with serious consequences for the Europeans and for France.

THE PRESIDENT – Then Mr Johnson plays politics, perhaps he’s playing poker, he’s intelligent and he gets in. I had a very good discussion with him. He wants to simplify things on the Irish border. All this is very complicated, I’m not sure we need to go into every detail this evening, or if we have time. But it’s very simple. We want an agreement enabling Europe to be protected. If we don’t get an agreement that protects us, and if we do what Mr Johnson wants today, it means any goods which no longer comply with European rules can arrive via Britain tomorrow. So if I agree to what Mr Johnson is asking for, I’ll come and see you tomorrow and then you’ll say to me: How come we in Europe ban GMOs but because Britain authorizes them, they get in via Britain and there are no longer any borders? That’s what he wants. We can’t accept that, because I want us to protect consumers and citizens and be a genuine market. So he must agree to the terms of the agreement existing. Subsequently, I think we must all be very intelligent. If it’s technical modifications that don’t change the agreement, it’s up to Michel Barnier and him to discuss it. That’s what I told him. For my part, I’d like us to reach an agreement. If there isn’t one, then there’ll be a departure without an agreement – a so-called no-deal or hard Brexit. We’re ready for a no-deal exit. It’ll be tough. It’s not good, it’s not what I’d like. But hold on: in the final analysis, the people who will still have the chance to prevent it are the British. They can withdraw this plan. So we must defend our interests. We mustn’t surrender everything because we’re afraid of it. What we’ve done is, we’ve passed laws, prepared ourselves, recruited customs officers, recruited vets to carry out checks if they have to be done. We’ll provide support, we’ll stand alongside our fishermen to defend them…

Q. – We’re preparing for the worst.

THE PRESIDENT – We have to prepare for the worst. That’s my responsibility, and it’s what I’ve asked the government to do. Work has been done, and we’ll stand alongside the regions, the professions, if it happens. I’ll do everything to ensure it doesn’t happen, but everything can’t mean being weak with the British against our interests. (…)./.

Published on 13/09/2019

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