Official speeches and statements - June 30, 2016
1. European Union - British referendum - Le Touquet agreements - Economic policy - Migration - Euro Area - Press conference by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, following the informal meeting (excerpts, Brussels - June 29, 2016)
Ladies and gentlemen,
EU / Brexit process
Following the dinner yesterday evening in the presence of David Cameron, at which we went back over the British referendum and its consequences, it was necessary for us 27 to meet for a discussion which had to focus on two challenges: what relations to have with the United Kingdom in the period that has just begun, and secondly, what relations we must establish between the 27 to further a number of priorities, the ones I’d already recalled: protection, security/defense, growth/employment, social and tax harmonization, and finally priority given to young people.
So it was on those two challenges that the discussion began during the 27-strong European Council, which isn’t formally a European Council but a meeting, which indeed anticipates what the European Union could be tomorrow, with the UK leaving.
The two principles I spoke about were clarity, first of all, and unity. Clarity means ensuring we can learn every lesson from the British choice. Clarity means letting the British government—the one that will be formed once the Conservative leader has been chosen—submit as soon as possible its formal request for notification of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. In other words, as soon as the government is formed, it must submit its notification, and this will then initiate the two-year negotiation period the treaties provide for.
Clarity means that no negotiation, no discussion, can begin before that notification. It’s notification by the government that begins the negotiation, and nothing about this notification, or about the conditions for this notification, must be argued with.
Clarity means ensuring that as soon as the UK’s formal request for withdrawal is made, the European Council adopts the guidelines for conducting the negotiation with the UK on what the UK’s relationship with the EU will be, with a view to withdrawal. In other words—if we want to continue using metaphors or comparisons—, the divorce settlement must be established by the European Council. And then, of course, the European Commission and the European Parliament will have their role to play.
Clarity means that the UK will, throughout the negotiation period, remain a fully-fledged member of the European Union, with its rights, with its obligations, with its contributions. Then, when the UK is no longer in the EU, at the end of the negotiation, the UK will remain a partner of the European Union and will have a status, which will no longer be that of an EU member but of a third country, a country outside the European Union.
UK / EU internal market
If the United Kingdom wants to have access to the internal market—which was the privilege of being an EU member and which was the major advantage the UK could seek in the European Union—, by being outside the EU, like Norway for example, it has the right of access to the European internal market. But then the UK will have to respect what we call the four freedoms: the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, and there can be no exemptions. You can’t take three freedoms and leave out the fourth, particularly the free movement of people.
Likewise, if in the framework of this negotiation and therefore at the end of it, the UK wanted to have access to the internal market, the UK would have to agree to all its rules, with all the obligations, and particularly one, namely to contribute financially to the workings of this internal market and to its organizational rules. Norway, for example, pays a certain sum for access to the internal market; the same would be true, at a much higher level, for the UK.
So clarity is essential to avoid any guesswork, any questioning, in the very brief period between now and the British government’s notification of its withdrawal, at the beginning of September. Clarity is essential to avoid any questioning, any speculation about what could happen during the negotiation period, which lasts a maximum of two years. Given that there could be a number of British wishes, clarity is imperative in order to know what the EU’s relationship with its friend the United Kingdom would be, particularly for access to the internal market.
France / UK / bilateral relations
At the same time, as I’ve emphasized several times since the British decision, France will maintain close relations with the UK, not only because of its historical ties—which will lead me to be present alongside David Cameron and some of the British Royal Family at the Battle of the Somme centenary; it’s true history binds us together—but also because France and the UK are very close—also linked by a tunnel—, with a very significant presence of French people in the UK and British people in France, with research we share at academic level, cultural policies that we also share, and academic policies that have also considerably increased in recent years. Finally, we have very close economic relations with the British; recently we’ve been talking a lot about Hinkley Point and energy, so all that will remain.
I’m not forgetting defense issues, because for several years agreements have been reached which have considerably broadened cooperation in the military sphere, including even in the area of the deterrent, in cooperation between the UK and France.
Brexit / impact on EU
Secondly, unity among the 27 is essential, not only to resolve the issue of negotiation with the British but, above all, to face up to the difficulties that exist, even though Brexit is primarily a problem for the UK. It’s also more of a problem—as we can clearly see today—than a solution, but ultimately it’s the solution that has been chosen by the British. Even so, we must limit and reduce as far as possible the impact of this Brexit on the European economy. So in order to dispel all the threats, the risks—which are, incidentally, limited—it’s very important for us to ensure Europe can respond, and also its institutions. I’m thinking in particular of the Central Bank, but there will be decisions to be taken in each country to support investment even more, both private and public, to overcome any influence the British decision has on the current European situation.
We also need unity to successfully complete the negotiation; that’s why the European Council has been entrusted with this responsibility, together with the European Commission, obviously, as a support, and the European Parliament, because it too is a product of European legitimacy.
There must also be unity when it comes to the new impetus Europe must be given in view of the shortcomings, the remoteness, not to say the mistrust that have manifested themselves in recent years in relation to the European enterprise—not in relation to the European ideal but in relation to the way Europe could decide, or not decide, or took a long time to decide. Those shortcomings are linked to how cumbersome it is: it’s true that working as 28 isn’t simple, but ultimately it won’t be any easier as 27, even though sometimes one member can create more debate than others.
So we’re going to have to be able to address these concerns, fears, disputes, even in the European Union. So I wanted us—and Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi shared this wish with me during Monday’s meeting – us to be able to set not just a road map and an agenda, but priorities too. The road map means there will be a discussion under way from today. There will be a summit in Bratislava in September to start taking decisions and begin a number of reforms, or at any rate new approaches, in the framework, moreover, of the strategic agenda adopted back in 2014, but we must also prepare these meetings and, among other things, call on experts so that we can make progress on a number of issues. Which ones?
Security / migration / defense
To begin with, issue number one is security, border protection and control, and defense—everything which enables Europeans to be protected. Protected in relation to what might happen outside [the EU]—we’ve seen the tragedy of terrorism in Turkey again—, protected also in relation to migration movements, even though we’ve got to shoulder our responsibilities towards refugees. Protected, also, in relation to a number of types of trafficking, or risks which may affect our countries. And protected in relation to existing wars, and conflicts which may affect us. People know what the Chancellor and I have done as regards Ukraine; people know what France is doing with the coalition as regards Syria, Iraq and the fight against Daesh [so-called ISIL], so Europe needs to organize itself in defense matters.
This will also be one of the subjects discussed at the NATO summit in Warsaw, because I don’t want Europe to delegate its responsibility completely to NATO. Of course, NATO is the Alliance, and it’s where there must be coordination, but Europe must make a greater effort for its defense. From that point of view, France has nothing to decide today because we make the biggest defense effort, one of the biggest in Europe, along with Greece. But we have to tell European countries that they’ve got to share this defense effort, pool it maybe; there are ideas which can be put forward on these matters. So that’s the first priority.
Growth / employment / investment
The second priority concerns the trio of growth, employment and investment. But equally, in order for our industries of the future to be more powerful than today—which will also presuppose that competition rules can of course be implemented and, above all, adapted—we need global leaders, and then we’ve also got to have further support for both private and public investment.
Finally, the third priority for the 27, and I mean 27, is how we can give young people more hope, particularly as regards their exchanges, their movement within the EU and also their training, their employment and as regards culture. A provision safeguarding copyright was adopted to this effect yesterday, because Europe is about culture.
If we’d been in a Euro Area meeting, I’d have reaffirmed France’s stance for having tax and social harmonization and also, ultimately—this is one of the things we’ve got to start thinking about—a Euro Area budget and better Euro Area governance, but there were 27 of us.
I’ll end by saying that we must prepare for the Bratislava summit properly because the next few weeks are going to be decisive. Europe must show its strength, that’s the first condition, but it must also show its ability to put forward initiatives, for Europeans and with Europeans, and in a relationship with citizens which probably differs from the past. It’s this ability, based on strength and solidarity, which will enable Europe to regain full confidence in itself and avoid breaking up.
In my view, nothing would be worse than the status quo, because the status quo would, after all, mean the populists continuing what they do, namely forever calling Europe into question on things over which it doesn’t necessarily have power, but so that they can show every time that it’s Europe which prevents us from taking action. We must prevent Europe from being a target and being regarded as the problem whereas in fact it may, here too, be a solution.
This is why nothing should prevent Europe from making progress, certainly not the decision the British have taken, which must be respected and, rather than hindering us, rather than stopping us, must spur us on and give us the essential jolt.