France’s minister for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, has stated it is up to the United Kingdom to decide the subsequent step on Brexit and no single European Union country was pressing London, least of all France.
Inquired to respond to a report that Boris Johnson, the Conservative leadership favourite, had called the French “turds” over Brexit, De Montchalin refused to comment, stating she was not familiar with the word.
The minister said Brexit was “a British concern for the British to decide”.
She told the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris: “If the UK wants to leave the EU, as well as in an orderly way, the withdrawal deal is the deal on the table, which has been wrangled for over two years. We’ve also said that the political declaration on the future relationship is available to discussion if the prime minister had a majority .”
De Montchalin stated the key question was to proceed as quickly as possible to think about the future relationship. “What is important is how we work together on the future on issues that are economic, academic, cultural, social, defence and security – what we’ll do together, and we’ll do a lot together, that’s certain .”
She stated the EU 27 countries were united on Brexit.
Asked if France would back giving one more extension to Britain’s leaving date beyond 31 October, De Montchalin stated there would have to be a political element “which showed that, if more time is given, something will be happening”. She stated for the last extension, which has been given in the spring, this was after cross-party talks between Conservatives and Labour. For any future request, there would have to be a process in place. “If it’s simply the question ‘we’d like more time’, the EU council is quite clear on that: there’s no reason for it without a new political scheme being put forward .”
She stated the advantage of the withdrawal agreement was that it included a transition period “which enables us to discuss the future in a stabilised situation. If there was not an exit agreement, we’d be discussing the future in a situation that wasn’t stabilised .”
She stated many EU countries had made contingency preparations for a no-deal exit “not because they want that” but because there might be a possibility it may happen accidentally .
“The cost of uncertainty is high – in the economy in general, in industry, in the financial sector, among fishermen on either side of the channel who don’t know what’s happening tomorrow,” she stated. “I think there are a certain number of governments, who notice the cost of that .”