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Official speeches and statements - March 30, 2017

Published on March 30, 2017

1. European Union - Brexit - Telephone conversation between Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, and British Prime Minister Theresa May - Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic (Paris - March 30, 2017)

The French President spoke on the telephone to British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mrs May recalled that the United Kingdom had decided to trigger the process of withdrawal from the European Union. In line with the notification letter sent to the European Council yesterday, she set out the approach her government wished to take to the coming discussions.

The President emphasized that the notification was a fundamental step, because it began the two-year period stipulated by the treaties for negotiating the UK’s withdrawal.

He reminded Mrs May of the principles of the negotiations. They should go ahead clearly and constructively, in order to dispel uncertainties and fully comply with the rules and interests of the 27-strong European Union.

With this in mind, the President said that discussions would initially have to begin on withdrawal arrangements, particularly with regard to citizens’ rights and the obligations arising from the commitments made by the UK.

On the basis of the progress thus made, we could begin discussions on the framework of future relations between the UK and the European Union, in accordance with Donald Tusk’s letter on behalf of the European Council.

2. European Union - Brexit - Statement by the 27 heads of state and government on Britain’s notification of withdrawal under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union¹ (Brussels - March 29, 2017)

Statement by the European Council (1)

Today, the European Council received a letter from the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, notifying the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the European Union. This notification follows the referendum of 23 June 2016 and starts the withdrawal process under Article 50 of the Treaty [on European Union, TUE]. We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow.

For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for the negotiations by the European Council. These guidelines will set out the overall positions and principles in light of which the Union, represented by the European Commission, will negotiate with the United Kingdom.

In these negotiations the Union will act as one and preserve its interests. Our first priority will be to minimize the uncertainty caused by the decision of the United Kingdom for our citizens, businesses and member states. Therefore, we will start by focusing on all key arrangements for an orderly withdrawal.

We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner.

President Tusk has convened the European Council on 29 April 2017.

(1) Following the notification under Article 50 TEU, the member of the European Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or in decisions concerning it.

¹Source of English text: European Council website.

3. Brexit - United Kingdom’s triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union - Communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting (Paris - March 30, 2017)

The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Minister of State for European Affairs made a statement on the United Kingdom’s triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

1/ On March 29, as she had pledged, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave formal notification of her country’s intention to leave the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The government regrets but respects this decision.

The decision will enable the negotiations to begin:

  • it will first be the responsibility of the 27-strong European Council to decide on guidelines laying down the collective positions and principles for the European Union’s negotiations with the United Kingdom. This will be the focus of a meeting which the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is convening on April 29;
  • on the basis of these guidelines, the Council will give the European Commission clear negotiating directives to negotiate on behalf of the European Union, which will be the responsibility of Michel Barnier;
  • the negotiations will then be able to start, probably as from June. They will be closely monitored by the European Council and the Council.

2/ The negotiations conducted under Article 50 concern the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The negotiations will last two years and will have to be concluded by the Council according to a qualified majority of the 27, after approval by the European Parliament. In particular, they will relate to:

  • the rights of European citizens in the UK and of British citizens on EU territory;
  • the UK’s fulfillment of all the obligations resulting from its decision to leave the EU and acceptance of the commitments, payments and guarantees it entails;
  • management of the external borders, in particular as regards the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will require very special attention in order to safeguard the achievements of the peace process while ensuring compliance with European rules.

Concurrently, the 27 will have to decide on the relocation of the agencies established in the UK: the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency. French bids exist in both cases.

A second set of negotiations will aim to prepare the framework of future relations between the 27-strong EU and the UK as a third country. It will not be possible for these discussions to begin until the arrangements for the UK’s departure from the EU have been precisely clarified.

This sequencing of the two sets of negotiations is essential in order to guarantee the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU and limit uncertainties as far as possible.

In her notification letter, the British Prime Minister states that she would like a deep and special partnership with the EU, in particular with an ambitious free trade agreement.

The negotiations on the framework of future relations with the UK will potentially concern many sectors, whether they are currently subject to the internal market (goods, services, capital and people) or to common policies.

France will be vigilant in order to safeguard and strengthen the EU’s cohesion and the protection of its interests in all the areas concerned. This will mean the 27 clearly defining the principles that will have to govern those future relations. No state must be able, outside the EU, to enjoy the advantages reserved for member states.

These future relations will have to comply fully with the Community legal system, based in particular on the EU’s decision-making autonomy, the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the integrity of the internal market and the indivisibility of the four freedoms, beginning with the free movement of people. This will also require respect for fair competition between the UK and the EU to be guaranteed, by ensuring conditions for trade in goods, services and capital which are fair and verifiable in the long term, including by adapting, as far as is needed, the European instruments necessary to this end.

3/ France is prepared for these negotiations. It organized itself the very day after the referendum of June 23, 2016, setting up, under the aegis of the General Secretariat for European Affairs, a working group bringing together all the directors general and directors of the relevant government departments.

This interministerial work will continue in order to ensure the best defense of French interests in the negotiations and prepare France as effectively as possible for the UK’s departure. In this context, the members of the government are fully mobilized, including by talking to the stakeholders concerned and professional organizations. This work, too, will be continued.

These unprecedented negotiations will be complex. Armed with its long-standing and deep ties with the UK, France will approach them in a constructive spirit, showing the necessary vigilance and full determination to help also strengthen the European Union.

4. Singapore - Bilateral relations - Speech by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the state dinner held in his honor - excerpts (Singapore - March 27, 2017)


France regards Singapore not only as an economic partner but also, and above all, a friend. This solid relationship is based on a long history. In 1819 two French naturalists, Pierre Medard-Diard and Alfred Duvaucel, accompanied Sir [Stamford] Raffles on his journey to Singapore, beginning a long series of scientific expeditions.

Then, at the time of Singapore’s proclamation of independence, France was one of the first countries in the world to recognize your state. And together we celebrated the 50th anniversary of that recognition of independence.

Lee Kuan Yew visited President Pompidou in 1970 and—since he had a prophetic side—he wanted France to support Singapore in its development. But let’s admit it, our relations have broadly surpassed the initial goal. And may I pay tribute here before you to the memory of the man who founded the nation of Singapore, [the anniversary of] whose passing you commemorated a few days ago. Lee Kuan Yew was the visionary architect of your success, and under his aegis the city state was able to face up to many challenges with determination, tenacity and skill, three values which also apply well beyond Singapore.

This dynamism is reflected in our trade, which is constantly growing, meaning Singapore accounts for our third-largest trade surplus in the world. And we don’t have so much [of a trade surplus] that we can’t give it the welcome it deserves. More than 6,000 businesses have established links with Singapore, and 700 subsidiaries of French businesses and 330 French entrepreneurs have decided to settle here in your country.

They employ more than 40,000 people, and you [President Tony Tan] have paid tribute to a number of those companies, in particular the joint venture CMA CGM-PSA, which has made one of the largest French investments in Singapore.

The relationship uniting our two countries is also political, and it’s based on the high level of trust we’ve been able to establish, and on very broadly similar views at diplomatic level.

Indeed, in many strategic sectors—and particularly defense—our two countries have become special partners. Next year we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the creation of the training school for Singaporean fighter pilots at the Cazaux air base, where you yourself went during your state visit in 2015.

I want to confirm to you that those pilots are especially well appreciated, not only at the Cazaux site in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region but also by their military colleagues, who see them as very high-class and skilled pilots. And they enable us to give our defense relations a human dimension.

Mr President, we’re aware of the role Singapore played in securing the Paris Agreement on the climate, because for a long time you’ve been aware that there are investments to make, precautions to take, and that the environment must be put at the heart of your public policies. And in the limited space you have, you’ve been capable of giving nature a place. You’ve also planned a carbon tax, which can only encourage innovative and intelligent behavior with a view to protecting our environment.

France and Singapore have also made a choice, namely scientific excellence. We have 130 researchers working here and a large number of French institutions making their contribution to projects linked to Smart Nation.

I’m delighted that major French higher education institutions—ESSEC, INSEAD, EDHEC, Sorbonne Universités and the Grenoble Graduate School of Business—have decided to establish bases in Singapore or develop partnerships, because I want our academic exchanges to prosper; and Singapore is the third-largest partner of the CNRS [French National Centre for Scientific Research]. And earlier I visited the Singaporean equivalent of the CNRS and they confirmed to me how close their relations are. And we’re going to make innovation the theme of the France-Singapore year of reciprocal events.

Finally, there’s culture: it links us together, and we also have an agreement that we’re going to improve further, which is enabling us to organize reciprocal events that are enlivening our cultural scene and enjoying great success. (...)

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