Official speeches and statements - June 24, 2016
The British people have decided by referendum to leave the European Union. This is a painful choice that I deeply regret, for the United Kingdom and for Europe. But it is their choice and we must respect that, taking on board all its consequences.
The United Kingdom will no longer be part of the European Union and the procedures set down in the treaties will be implemented quickly—that is the rule, and the consequence.
France, for both its own sake and that of the UK, will continue to work with this great friend, with which we are bound by so many historical and geographical ties in economic, human and cultural terms, not to mention our close relations in the defence sector, which will be preserved.
The British vote is a great test for Europe. In these circumstances, it needs to show its solidity and strength, finding the right answers to control the economic and financial risks attached to the United Kingdom’s departure. Steps have already been taken, and I am confident in their effectiveness.
But Britain’s decision also requires us to clearly acknowledge the weaknesses in the way Europe functions and the loss of peoples’ confidence in the European project.
There is a great danger of extremism and populism. It always takes less time to dismantle than to assemble, or to destroy than to build. France, as a founding country of Europe, will not accept that.
We have to take heed. To move forward, Europe can no longer do as it has in the past. The peoples expect the European Union to reaffirm its values of freedom, tolerance and peace. Europe needs to be a sovereign power deciding its own future and promoting its model.
France will therefore be leading efforts to ensure Europe focuses on the most important issues: the security and defence of our continent, to protect our borders and preserve peace in the face of threats; investment in growth and jobs, to implement industrial policies in the sector of new technologies and the energy transition; tax and social harmonization to set down rules for our economies and safeguards for our citizens; and a strengthening of the eurozone and its democratic governance.
I am convinced that Europe needs to promote projects, and not be caught up in procedures. It needs to be understood and overseen by citizens. It needs to make rapid decisions where it is expected to, and once and for all leave up to nation states their own competences.
That is the mandate I will promote at the European Council meeting on Tuesday. Beforehand, I will meet with the leaders of France’s major political parties. I will also visit Berlin on Monday, in order to discuss what has to be done—particularly for the preparation of this Council meeting—with Federal Chancellor Merkel and, no doubt, Matteo Renzi, President of the Italian Council of Ministers. Germany, because the cohesion of the whole European Union depends on our unity. Europe is a great ideal and not just a great market. And if it has lost its way, it is no doubt because that has been forgotten.
Europe needs to remain a source of hope for young people, as their horizon. Today, history is on our doorstep. We have a choice between a weakening of Europe, at the risk of turning inwards, or a reaffirmation of its existence, at the cost of deep changes.
I will do my utmost to ensure we choose deep change and not a turning inwards. France has a special responsibility because it is at the centre of Europe, because it wanted Europe, because it has built Europe, and because it is the country that can lead others and guarantee the future of our continent.
As a Frenchman and a European, this is my firm belief, and it is what will guide me in the running of our country at such a decisive time. We know that history is our judge today, as it has caught up with us. We must be equal to the situation we are facing.
This decision by British voters is a seismic shock. It’s caused an explosion on a continental and global scale.
But it’s also the British people’s free, sovereign decision. Above all, we mustn’t deny or scorn it. We must respect it, although clearly we must draw every conclusion from it.
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union. I strongly believe this departure upsets certainties and established plans and demands a collective response commensurate with what’s happened.
The decision also, no doubt, reveals a malaise ignored for too long. For too long we’ve closed our eyes to the warnings and doubts expressed by European people... and this is where we are.
I’ve often been criticized recently for speaking rather seriously, because I’ve said history can be tragic: the terrorist threat, terrorist acts, which have struck Europe; the migration crisis, with its succession of tragedies; the rise of the far right on our continent, which would be turning its back on its founding values.
We can see how impossible it is for us to continue as before. Indeed, the risk is quite simply of a dislocation of Europe; and for our nations, dismantling Europe—this Europe that was build for peace and prosperity—means growing considerably weaker.
So it’s time to be worthy of our founding fathers. It’s time to radically reform, reinvent another Europe, by listening to the people. And Europe can’t exist without the people’s voice.
Europe must no longer intervene everywhere, all the time. It must act where it is effective, where it is expected, whilst of course asserting our identity, ensuring security and control of our borders, and defending our economic interests.
I’m deeply patriotic; I love my country, France. I believe in this unique nation. And I’m also fully European, through my roots, origins and beliefs. Yes, the European project must be rebuilt by answering these questions: what type of project, values, identity and borders?
This is how we shall restore faith in Europe. And this is how our fellow citizens will regain full ownership of the European project. And it is in the very name of these European beliefs that I think we can make it a success, because there has to be hope in the European project.
3. European Union - British referendum - Statement by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, on his arrival at the informal foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg (Luxembourg, 24/06/2016)
It was important for me to be here this morning with my fellow foreign ministers and ministers of state for European affairs.
We are sad, but the British people have made their choice and we must respect it. We are sad for the United Kingdom and sad for Europe.
But we must face up to this situation, and facing up means preserving the unity of Europe, continuing to implement its priorities, while being even more mindful of the aspirations of people throughout Europe. So there is a lot of work ahead.
But what is important today is to respect the vote of the British people. I say this because some think that we are in a state of chaos. No, there is no chaos, because there are treaties. And Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the conditions for withdrawal from the EU. So there must be no uncertainty. The British government must announce the official decision of the British people and we must start implementing this article, for the cohesion and stability of both Europe and the United Kingdom. This is a matter of urgency. There is no time to lose. Any period of uncertainty would be detrimental.
So these are the issues which we will discuss today. We will make another statement later.