The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, made a statement on Brexit.
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union at midnight on 31 January. It is the culmination of over two years of intense negotiations which made it possible to avoid a disorderly exit. Over this period, the EU demonstrated its ability to speak with one voice, standing behind its chief negotiator.
The rights of European and British citizens have been protected; this was the government’s first priority. French citizens living in the United Kingdom will be able to continue living, working and studying in the United Kingdom under the same conditions currently existing. In a reciprocal way, British citizens living on French territory will enjoy the same rights as today. However, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal will have certain consequences: for example, British citizens living in France will no longer be able to vote or be eligible to stand in municipal elections.
1 February will mark the beginning of a transition period during which EU law will continue to apply in the United Kingdom. However, having become a third state from that date onwards, the United Kingdom will no longer be able to participate in the EU’s decision-making process. This transition period provides security for our businesses and our citizens. It is scheduled – at this stage – to end on 31 December 2020, unless the British ask for it to be extended.
The next 11 months will be put to good use, making as much progress as possible on negotiating a new relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This relationship will necessarily be different from the one we have known until now. However, the government would like it to be ambitious, but also balanced and based on reciprocity. The negotiations will be comprehensive and not solely related to trade and fisheries. They will also focus on domestic security, foreign and security policy, and mobility.
The new partnership will have to respect key principles essential for protecting our European project and the EU’s interests. In particular it will have to respect its decision-making autonomy, the integrity of the single market and the balance between rights and obligations.
In the negotiations, France will have several points it will be extremely vigilant about in order to protect its citizens, farmers, fishermen and businesses.
Regarding trade, the government will have to ensure that conditions of fair competition are maintained between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The closeness of trade links will depend on regulatory convergence. Only a sufficient UK regulatory alignment with European standards that guarantees zero dumping will enable the zero-customs-duties, zero-quotas target to be reached. Robust dialogue and monitoring mechanisms will have to be established to ensure, over time, compliance with the commitments made.
The government will pay the utmost attention to the fisheries sector. France’s position is firm and consistent: the government would like to maintain optimal access to British waters for French fishermen and, in this sector too, a situation of fair competition with the United Kingdom.
The urgent nature of the situation must not lead to hastiness or agreement to compromises that would jeopardize our interests. The underlying issues will always have to take precedence over the timetable. The unity of the 27 will have to prevail over individual interests.
There is a possibility that the negotiations are not completed by 31 December 2020 and that the British do not request an extension to the transition period. So France must continue preparing for such a no-deal scenario.
The United Kingdom will remain a major partner for France, with which it intends to continue maintaining deep bilateral links, in particular in the security and defence field.
In this regard, the next Franco-British summit, planned for the autumn of 2020, will aim to testify to the strength of this cooperation, in the strategic field first of all – 10 years after the signature of the founding treaties of Lancaster House – but also in many other areas, including the fight against climate change, in the context of COP26, to be held in Glasgow from 9 to 20 November 2020.
Translation courtesy of the French Embassy in London