Official speeches and statements - September 10, 2019
President Macron spoke on the telephone today with his Russian counterpart.
This discussion, on the eve of the meeting of the Security Cooperation Council in Moscow, provided an opportunity to clarify the main aspects of the work being undertaken by the French and Russian foreign and defence ministers.
President Macron also took this opportunity to welcome the latest exchange of prisoners that had taken place the day before between Russia and Ukraine. The two presidents confirmed that the current momentum would make it possible to hold, within the next few weeks, a summit in the Normandy format in Paris, in order to make progress on implementing the Minsk agreements.
Lastly, President Macron and his Russian counterpart discussed the issue of Iran and expressed the hope that all parties concerned would now take the necessary political decisions to ease tensions.
President Macron and the Russian President agreed to continue their discussions, after the meeting of the Security Cooperation Council, on the basis of the joint strategic road map, which will be monitored, on the French side, by Ambassador of France Pierre Vimont.
Q. - On Brexit, we’re approaching the 31 October deadline; it was set, indeed called for by Emmanuel Macron during a European Council. Yet the British Parliament and the House of Lords have voted for a law imposing a delay on Brexit until after 31 October in the event of no deal. Is France willing, yes or no, to accept this delay?
THE MINISTER - The situation in Britain is really very disturbing, because actually on the substance, if we don’t follow what’s happened in the past three years, there’s a sort of conflict of legitimacy between the people, who, in the referendum three years ago, said Â“we want to leave" - it wasn’t our position, we regret this position, but the British people cast their vote -, and Parliament, also the expression of the people, which doesn’t know how to leave and for three years has been trying to see how the British people’s decision can be respected, but can’t find a way.
Q. - And on the timetable?
THE MINISTER - Nor on the timetable, because today in the British Parliament there’s no majority for anything. There’s no majority for the withdrawal agreement. There’s no majority for calling an election. There no majority for a Â“no-deal". There’s no majority for anything. So there’s an impasse.
Q. - What must be done? What can Boris Johnson do?
THE MINISTER - You need to ask him. There’s an impasse and the British people must tell us what they want. We aren’t going to take the place of the British. It’s up to the British to tell us, Â“this is what we want". We didn’t want them to leave the European Union. They decided to do so. Tell us, dear British friends, how you want to do this so we can help you do it. But for the time being, we don’t know what they want to do because there’s no majority on any of the options. So there’s an impasse...
Q. - And if the date were put back?
THE MINISTER - There’s an impasse today which is leading to risks concerning the UK, because Scotland is talking about possible independence over this. So the British need to take charge of their situation.
Q. - But if they tell us they want to put back the date of 31 October, what’s the reply? Do we agree or not?
THE MINISTER - As things stand it’s "no", because they’re saying they want to propose other, alternative solutions, alternative arrangements to ensure the withdrawal and ensure no deal. We haven’t seen these, so it’s Â“no", we aren’t going to start all over again every three months. The British Parliament, the British authorities need to tell us the path to be taken. (...)
3. European Union - Brexit - Excerpts from the interview given by Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to Radio Classique (Paris - September 5, 2019)
Q. - (...) Are you going to have a meeting with Boris Johnson?
THE MINISTER - Well, I don’t generally go and meet prime ministers on my own; on the other hand, I have very regular meetings with my British counterpart, who was in Paris on Wednesday, and we speak to each other, we telephone each other, we’re always in contact. Diplomatic relations haven’t been broken off, and moreover I don’t think they’ll ever be.
Q. - Except that things are changing every day.
THE MINISTER - Well, things are changing every day...
Q. - We were looking at a hard Brexit, and now MPs have told Boris Johnson he’s got to negotiate an extension and even abandon the idea of an election.
THE MINISTER - So basically there are many developments, things are moving a great deal. We’re seeing a very intense political struggle between the government and Parliament. If we summarize what’s nevertheless happened over the past few days, basically we’ve gone back to a starting point which we’re familiar with; we know that the British Parliament doesn’t want to leave the European Union without a deal. We’ve known this for months; it’s also why they repeated it several times going back to when Theresa May was Prime Minister, because, like us, the 27, they want things to happen in an orderly way. That’s why for two and a half years we worked to see how we could...
Q. - That was Barnier’s work, but all that has been ripped up...
THE MINISTER - ...protect citizens, and how in particular we could enable the economy to continue functioning, even if we were to have new relations. So the Parliament is very clear about this. What we’re seeing at the same time is that this same British Parliament is also telling us it doesn’t want an election to be held, and that we’re therefore in a situation which is somewhat at a standstill, and that we know what they don’t want, but we’re still finding it difficult to understand what they do want. So our position, vis-à-vis my counterparts and vis-à-vis the British in general, is to say to them: make us some concrete proposals - that’s what we’ve been waiting for now for weeks and weeks - so that we can see if there are minor amendments to the agreement we negotiated which allow us to move forward, and well, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t listen to you. If there are major things to be done, should they basically be done in the framework of this divorce agreement, or in the framework of the future relationship which we’ll have to look at with the British? What I want to say to French people today is that we can comment on British politics, it’s gripping, it’s changing all the time. [But] it isn’t our job. Our job - at least, we who bear the responsibilities - is to be ready for every eventuality, because a no-deal exit on 31 October remains a very strong possibility, and so this is why Agnès Pannier, Olivier Dussopt and I are going to be meeting ambassadors from every European Union country next week, and the Prime Minister is convening all the ministers on Monday. We’re preparing, because behind this issue there are...
Q. - But there are major economic questions for French businesses, for those exporting to Britain and which don’t even know what customs duties are going to be applied.
THE MINISTER - There are businesses, there are 300,000 French people living in London and 150,000 British people living in France. So behind these issues, which may look like part of a major, very complicated diplomatic effort, there are some very concrete things and our job is to be both very calm, because we aren’t there to clash with the UK; the cliffs of Dover will forever remain where they are. I grew up in Calais and can tell you that the tunnel is still, and will always be, 50 km long. The British will remain neighbours with whom we’ll have a huge amount of exchanges. So we’ve got to remain calm, because we’ve got to build the future relationship, and then we’ve got to be prepared so that these diplomatic elements, the British people’s sovereign choice doesn’t impact, doesn’t jeopardize either our trade, our businesses, French families in the UK or British families in France.
Q. - But you acknowledge that this morning it’s extremely complicated because you’ve got the British people, who want Brexit, parliamentarians who don’t, Johnson who wants an election and parliamentarians who don’t want an election.
THE MINISTER - No, there’s one thing on which we think we can agree, which is that Parliament agrees on having Brexit, but they want an agreement. And so we’re saying to them: help us...
Q. - Before the 31st?
THE MINISTER - Yes, help us put together the agreement!
Q. - Before the 31st?
THE MINISTER - We’ve been working on it for two and a half years.
Q. - Before the 31st?
THE MINISTER - Meaning?
Q. - Well, do you think this agreement is negotiable before the 31st?
THE MINISTER - But we’ve had one on the table for two and a half years.
Q. - I’m well aware of that, but they haven’t wanted it up to now. So...
THE MINISTER - There’s one thing the President has also said very clearly: a complicated problem won’t be resolved by spreading it over longer periods of time or delaying it by three months without changing anything.
Q. - So we can achieve it before the 31st?
THE MINISTER - But that’s what we’re doing daily, that’s what we’re trying to work on. Yet when I hear the British say: give us three more months and we’ll resolve the problem, we can clearly see that six more months haven’t resolved the problem, nor will a further three months. There must be a choice, there must be a form of national unity; they must be able to tell us what they want. Today we clearly understand what they don’t want. Like them, we don’t wish the UK to leave with no deal - we all agree on that, it’s the only thing... (...)