May promises France she won’t cherry-pick EU membership during Brexit breakup
The British PM will pledge to respect the EU’s conditions on access to the single market during talks with Bernard Cazeneuve, the French prime minister, at Downing Street.
May, who previously said that she wants Britain to keep “the greatest possible access” to the union’s single market, was accused by a number of European leaders of selecting the most favorable parts of EU membership.
Last December, when asked about the Brexit negotiations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she “will not allow any cherry-picking.”
“The four basic freedoms must be safeguarded – freedom of movement for people, goods, services and financial market products. Only then can there be access to the single market,” the chancellor said.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, also claimed that “the days of the UK cherry-picking and Europe a la carte are over,” while his counterpart in the EU Commission rejected any possibility of a special deal with the UK.
In response to those accusations, May published an article in the French journal Le Figaro, writing that she “respects the position” of French President Francois Hollande that retaining membership in the EU single market “would mean accepting the 'four freedoms' of goods, capital, services and people.”
“Britain understands that EU leaders want to continue with the process of integration.
“We do not, to borrow the phrase, seek to cherry-pick which bits of membership we desire,” the PM wrote.
May also stressed that a good Brexit deal is also in French interests, as “UK companies are responsible for an estimated 230,000 jobs in France, and French companies for about 370,000 jobs in the UK.”
Moreover, the bilateral trade between the two countries is worth more than £50 billion (US$62 billion) per annum.
The PM emphasized that French nationals will “always be welcome in Britain” and the reciprocal protection of private citizens’ rights post-Brexit is “in everyone’s interests.”
However, this new conciliatory tone of the British government may be insufficient to woo the French leadership towards a softer stance in the Brexit negotiations.
The French Senate recently published a report, arguing that the UK should not be in a better position than it is now in the aftermath of its split with the bloc. Consequently, the Senate ruled out any special access for British industries to the single market.
The Senate also stated that the City of London should no longer be the financial center for euro-trading after the UK withdraws from the union.
Similarly, President Hollande declared that Britain should “pay the price” for leaving the EU.
This rhetoric stands in stark contrast with National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who said that the UK should not be punished for escaping the EU “prison.”
Nevertheless, even if PM May succeeds in bringing the French establishment to the table with a more lenient position, this does not entail a swift process of negotiations.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, stated that he expects the Brexit negotiations to drag on for over two years.
“I do not think ... we will succeed within 24 months to clear up the arrangements for Britain's exit from the EU,” Juncker said at the ongoing Munich Security Conference.