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Source: France-Diplomatie – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Published on December 29, 2020

1. European Union – Brexit – Interview given by Mr. Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the newspaper La Provence (excerpts) (Arles – December 28, 2020)

The UK is definitively splitting from the EU at midnight on 31 December. What will the economic consequences of this be for France and Europe in particular?

December 31 will mark an unprecedented change: a State is leaving the European Union. It’s much more of a problem for the UK than for us. With the deal we’ve reached, after many months of negotiations, France and Europe are well equipped. In any event, we’ll ensure this is the case. There’ll be no customs duties between the UK and the European market, and the British will have to comply with all our rules and standards to export to us. This was the essential precondition for us to agree a deal, which the British needed much more than us. Brexit isn’t good news for anyone, but its economic impact in France will be very limited. There’s a particular concern about fisheries, in the north and west, but we defended the interests of our fishermen and we’ll support them.

Are we well prepared for the changes brought about by Brexit?

Yes! There will be checks from 1 January: customs and health checks on goods moving between France and the UK. The fact that there’s a deal doesn’t alter anything; our businesses must keep this clearly in mind. Here too, the State’s services are supporting them: we’ve recruited an extra 700 customs officers, more than 300 vets and nearly 300 border police because checks will also be stepped up on Britons going to France.

What are the political consequences of Brexit for the European institutions?

It would be wrong to believe that Brexit is an isolated British crisis. The referendum revealed trends under way across Europe and beyond. Firstly, manipulation and lies, unfulfilled promises. In the end, Brexit is depriving the UK of the European recovery plan, paying nearly twice as much for Covid vaccines and depriving young people of the Erasmus exchange program, while making it comply with our rules to have access to our market. In terms of sovereignty, we’re doing better!

This should make us all think about populist lies. But that vote also showed a malaise towards Europe which we’ve got to address because, indeed, the EU wasn’t affording enough protection, and has often embodied a naïve liberalism with a belief in soft global trade and competition at any cost. That was a mistake. But the Europeans have opened their eyes, put their naivety – especially towards China – aside, affirmed their ambition for the climate and started building a Defense Europe, and now a Health Europe. It’s still very imperfect, too slow, but the electric shock administered by Brexit has bound us together and strengthened us. (…)

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