French President François Hollande warned last night (6 October) against the continued “ambiguity” surrounding Britain’s EU membership, arguing in favour of tough Brexit negotiations with the UK.
“Britain has decided to go for a Brexit, in fact I believe a hard Brexit. Well, we have to follow through with Britain’s wishes to leave the European Union and we need to be firm,” Hollande told a dinner hosted by the Jacques Delors Institute, a think tank.
“If not, we would jeopardise the fundamental principles of the EU,” he added, warning that other countries might be tempted to leave as well.
Hollande was speaking in Paris at a dinner to celebrate 20th anniversary of the Jacques Delors Institute. The dinner was attended also by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.
And the French President apparently decided not to mince his words.
“Today the UK wants to leave but pay nothing. That is not possible,” he said, almost losing patience.
“It is neither in the interest of the EU, nor the UK to remain in a situation of ambiguity,” he stressed.
Hollande’s warning comes just days after the UK Prime minister Theresa May announced that the UK would trigger the process of leaving the EU by the end of March.
May also hinted that the UK might be heading for tough talks with the EU as she stressed that immigration controls will be prioritised over access to the single market.
Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday (4 October) she would trigger the process to leave the EU by the end of March, offering the first glimpse of a timetable for a divorce that will redefine Britain’s ties with its biggest trading partner.
Not another crisis, THE crisis
“Europe has always been in crisis,” Hollande said. “But this time, it is not a further crisis. This is THE crisis,” he added, citing, in particular, the situation of Italy and Spain in 2012, that of Greece in 2014, the current plight of refugees and the latest earthquake, Brexit.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU on 23 June sparked turmoil in financial markets as investors tried to gauge its impact on both the world’s fifth largest economy and the 28-member bloc.
The country’s allies fear that its exit from the EU could mark a turning point in post-Cold War international affairs that will weaken the West in relation to China and Russia, undermine efforts toward European integration and hurt global free trade.
To face these challenges, Hollande urged the “architects” – the nations that make up the European Union – to “be concerned” and to make every effort to strengthen the bloc’s “foundations”.
“Europe is our values, a culture, which deserve to be defended fiercely and everywhere. As Delors put it, this is our Europe,” he concluded.