Exclusive: France won't save Theresa May from a no-deal Brexit, warns Macron ally

WPA Pool / Pool / GettyUK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron
  • Key Macron ally tells Business Insider that France will not compromise in Brexit talks.
  • The secretary of the French parliament’s Brexit mission, Alexandre Holroyd, says France’s commitment to the single market overrides concern about Britain crashing out without a deal.
  • “We are not going to bargain 70 years of [European] integration on that deal.”
  • His comments come as the French Europe Minister dismisses reports that France will budge in order to save Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

LONDON – The French government will oppose a Brexit deal which in “any way, shape, or form” compromises the integrity of the European single market, the secretary of the French parliament’s Brexit mission has told Business Insider, dismissing reports that France is ready to compromise in order to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU.

Reports in recent weeks have suggested that France was moving towards supporting Theresa May’s proposed ‘Chequers’ Brexit plan, which would allow Britain to remain in a single market for goods with the EU after Brexit.

However, Alexandre Holroyd, the French MP for Northern Europe who travelled to Denmark and Finland with President Macron last week, told BI that while France was “committed” to finding a deal, “we are not going to bargain 70 years of [European] integration on that deal.”

He described the Theresa May’s Chequers proposals – which would keep the UK closely aligned with EU rules for goods after Brexit, but retain the freedom to diverge on services – as “a step in the right direction.”

But he said that while there is concern over the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in Paris, there is still no appetite to compromise the security of the single market to secure a deal.

“If you measure the concern on one side of the channel versus another, it’s very clear where that concern is highest,” he said.

“[But] that concern will not override considerations about protecting a project which we’ve been building for 70 years together.

“We need to find a practically functionable system which ensures from [France’s] perspective that the long-term prospects of the single market aren’t jeopardised.”

Holroyd’s comments were echoed on Wednesday by the French Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau.

“I read the British press on a daily basis and sometimes I wonder whether we live in the same world,” she said.

“We will not redefine our basic principles because the UK doesn’t want to belong to the European Union any more. We have described our priorities and they are not subject to negotiation.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has also poured scorn on the Chequers plan in the past week, describing aspects of the customs proposals as “insane” and potentially illegal.

The biggest obstacle to a Brexit deal?

Alexandre HolroydOffice of Alexandre HolroydAlexandre Holroyd

The French government has been characterised as a particularly intransigent member state in its stance on Brexit. Former Foreign Secretary William Hague said in August that British negotiators believe that France “is the biggest national obstacle to a Brexit deal” and the key to softening the EU’s firm position on Brexit.

But Holroyd insisted that characterisation of France’s position was unfair, and said member states were widely unified in their opposition to the prospect of softening the EU’s own red lines.

“There’s a [common] description of France being the head of one group of member states within the EU 28, and the UK being another,” he told BI.

“But there are lots of small member states who have nearly exactly the same position as France.”

He said that Britain’s traditional European allies of Britain, such as Holland, and countries widely perceived to be more open to making concessions to the UK, such as Poland, are equally opposed to softening the EU’s red lines as France.

“Ask the Polish foreign minister about Polish citizens’ rights in the UK. He is as intransigent as any other leader in the EU,” he said.

“Go to Holland, and you find that the Dutch have an attachment to the rule of law, and of European law in particular, which means they consider any compromise to European single market law as completely unacceptable.”

“Some people like to portray it as France being [hostile]. I don’t think that’s the case,” he said, adding that President Macron had been the first European leader to call for a tailored deal.

The UK’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab travels to Brussels on Thursday to resume technical talks with Barnier.

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