PM outlines some of France’s Brexit contingency measures

European Union – Brexit – Communiqué issued by the Prime Minister’s Office

Paris, 9 September 2019

On 9 September 2019, the Prime Minister once again convened the relevant ministers to prepare for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The European Union and the United Kingdom spent two years negotiating a withdrawal agreement, the best one possible for protecting European citizens from the consequences of Brexit.

Whilst France would like to avoid a no-deal exit on 31 October 2019, it is preparing for every scenario in close cooperation with its European partners and the European Commission.

Since April 2018, the government and administrations have been working on the implementation of a national contingency plan, which the Prime Minister launched on 17 January 2019.

In this framework, Parliament empowered the government, by a law promulgated on 19 January 2019, to legislate by ordinance in priority areas so as to ensure legal certainty and the elements of continuity which are absolutely necessary for French and British nationals and businesses. The French government has therefore acquired a legal arsenal, which led to the adoption, between January and April 2019, of seven ordinances, eight decrees and several orders.

Infrastructure managers (ports, stations, airports) have carried out the necessary adjustments and work to ensure that border checks are operational from the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. Additional staff have also been assigned to perform customs (600 customs officers), health and phytosanitary (200 veterinary experts) checks at the borders. The system is therefore now in place. It will undergo real-world testing in the coming weeks.

The Prime Minister has asked ministries to step up communication and information drives for citizens and businesses, to encourage economic operators and individuals to intensify their preparations for a no-deal withdrawal. A website, www.brexit.gouv.fr, which has been operational since 1 December 2018, provides answers to questions from French citizens settled in the United Kingdom, British citizens settled in France and businesses trading with the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister would like the ministries to be in a position to respond quickly to all queries raised by businesses and individuals. In October, the Ministry of the Interior will launch an online registration platform for residence permit applications for British nationals living in France.

The Prime Minister has also asked the relevant ministries and the state services to ensure permanent, close consultation with local elected representatives and economic players on the ground. He has appointed M. Michel Lalande, Prefect of Hauts-de-France region, Prefect of Nord Defence and Security Zone, and Prefect of Nord department, as national coordinator for preparation at local level for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

Finally, the fisheries sector requires close European coordination. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food will therefore continue working with the European Commission and relevant member states at a coordination meeting in Brussels on 16 September 2019 and the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 14 October 2019.

A no-deal exit would entail some level of disruption to the current relationship with the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has asked all ministers to remain mobilized on the issue and maintain the unity of the 27 European Union member states, until the United Kingdom has clarified its position./.

Foreign policy – Brexit – Interview given by M. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to BFM Business (excerpts)

Paris, 10 September 2019

(…)

Q. – It feels like there’s real confusion in Britain, with Boris Johnson saying he doesn’t want another Brexit extension, and then MPs rejecting the call for another general election. We’re at complete deadlock, and some – especially in Brussels – are starting to say that a new Brexit extension will have to be accepted. We know France was very opposed – led by Emmanuel Macron, of course. What’s France’s position in the event of this?

THE MINISTER – Well, the London fog is indeed getting thicker, and given this, at any rate, we’re preparing for every scenario; above all, France is ready so that on 31 October we’ll be well prepared if Brexit happens. We’ve recruited 600 customs officers, 200 vets…

Q. – Have they been recruited, because we’ve been hearing this for a long time?

THE MINISTER – Oh they have, that’s it, they’re operational, and so it’s important because French companies do a lot of business with the UK, it’s our…

Q. – French companies aren’t very ready, despite…

THE MINISTER – Well, we’re continuing to support them; there was a meeting last week with Agnès Pannier-Runacher and Amélie de Montchalin, so we’re going to go on individually contacting, calling the 20,000 companies exporting to the UK because it’s indeed essential for them to have all the new procedures. So we’re ready, and we’re ready for every eventuality.

Q. – And about the extension, are you willing to agree to another one? Is France, the French government, willing?

THE MINISTER – But an extension can’t be a plan in itself. We’ve seen this, there’s already been an extension. Has it fundamentally changed things? No. Boris Johnson said he had ideas; we’re currently waiting to see them. So I think that for the moment – Jean-Yves Le Drian said this to your colleagues on Sunday as well – France isn’t entertaining the idea of a delay.

Q. – Yes, but at the same time we’re seeing the idea gaining ground in Brussels that we’ve got to get clear of the London fog, to use your phrase.

THE MINISTER – As you know, there was a vote, a vote by the people…

Q. – Could this be done without France?

THE MINISTER – No, it’s done unanimously, so it can’t be done without France. The British people voted; I think, in that context, where populists are on the rise throughout Europe, that not implementing what was voted on doesn’t do European democracies as a whole any favours.

Q. – Parliament is due to reconvene on 14 October, i.e. 15 days before the deadline. If things are completely deadlocked, the European Union will have to act, it has to do something!

THE MINISTER – The European Union has acted, it negotiated, an agreement was reached, this agreement commits the British government, it commits the UK – I mean, Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary when the agreement was being negotiated, so you can’t just break away from all the rules you’ve subscribed to like that. So there comes a point when you’ve got to respect the ground rules. (…)./.

Foreign policy/Brexit – Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Europe 1’s “Le Grand Rendez-vous” (excerpts)

Paris, 8 September 2019

(…)

Q. – On Brexit, we’re approaching the 31 October deadline; it was set, indeed called for by Emmanuel Macron during a European Council. Yet the British Parliament and the House of Lords have voted for a law imposing a delay on Brexit until after 31 October in the event of no deal. Is France willing, yes or no, to accept this delay?

THE MINISTER – The situation in Britain is really very disturbing, because actually on the substance, if we don’t follow what’s happened in the past three years, there’s a sort of conflict of legitimacy between the people, who, in the referendum three years ago, said “we want to leave” – it wasn’t our position, we regret this position, but the British people cast their vote –, and Parliament, also the expression of the people, which doesn’t know how to leave and for three years has been trying to see how the British people’s decision can be respected, but can’t find a way.

Q. – And on the timetable?

THE MINISTER – Nor on the timetable, because today in the British Parliament there’s no majority for anything. There’s no majority for the withdrawal agreement. There’s no majority for calling an election. There no majority for a “no-deal”. There’s no majority for anything. So there’s an impasse.

Q. – What must be done? What can Boris Johnson do?

THE MINISTER – You need to ask him. There’s an impasse and the British people must tell us what they want. We aren’t going to take the place of the British. It’s up to the British to tell us, “this is what we want”. We didn’t want them to leave the European Union. They decided to do so. Tell us, dear British friends, how you want to do this so we can help you do it. But for the time being, we don’t know what they want to do because there’s no majority on any of the options. So there’s an impasse…

Q. – And if the date were put back?

THE MINISTER – There’s an impasse today which is leading to risks concerning the UK, because Scotland is talking about possible independence over this. So the British need to take charge of their situation.

Q. – But if they tell us they want to put back the date of 31 October, what’s the reply? Do we agree or not?

THE MINISTER – As things stand it’s “no”, because they’re saying they want to propose other, alternative solutions, alternative arrangements to ensure the withdrawal and ensure no deal. We haven’t seen these, so it’s “no”, we aren’t going to start all over again every three months. The British Parliament, the British authorities need to tell us the path to be taken. (…)./.

Published on 12/09/2019

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