The favourite to be next French president wants Brexit to be fast, hard and uncompromising

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Photo: Dennis Charlet/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Francois Fillon, the former French prime minister who is in a strong position to be elected president next year, believes Brexit must be “fast” and leave Britain without its crucial financial passport.

The centre-right politician upset the French polls on Sunday by cruising to a comfortable victory in the Republican party’s first round of voting to decide its nominee for the upcoming presidential election.

Fillon, who received around 42% of the vote, will go head-to-head with initial favourite Alain JuppĂ© in the second round of voting later this week. The winner is widely expected to battle — and defeat — far-right candidate Marine Le Pen for the presidency.

The 62-year-old is a traditional conservative who holds some pretty hard line views. He has vowed to bump up the working week by four hours, for example, and says he wants to get rid of half a million jobs in the public sector.

He has expressed some hardline views on Brexit, too. Here is an extract from a speech he gave in June, five days after the referendum, in which he outlined how he believes France should approach Britain’s exit from the EU.

This is he said (emphasis ours):

“Now the urgency is to regulate the British case.The divorce must be serene but it should be fast.

“The 27 must pressure the British and agree on a deadline, which should not go beyond the end of September.

“Meanwhile, the British members of the Strasbourg Parliament should no longer take part in votes and officials in Brussels decisions. I would also pay tribute to the British commissioner who, in consistency, drew the consequences of this vote by resigning from office.

“The objectives are clear: the British out, but the English do not make them adversaries. Neither hostility nor complacency.

“We can not have left the town house, not pay more expenses, and benefit from the roof, room and board.

“However, we can negotiate a good neighbourhood agreement. And if they are seekers, and I hope, we must maintain and deepen defence agreement with Britain.

But there is no reason to give them European financial passport, and the eurozone must recover the clearing of its currency. In the process, we must reach out to the French settled in the UK and those who think they should be located within the European Union.”

It is clear from this speech that Fillon would adopt a no-nonsense approach to Brexit if elected president. He called for a “fast” divorce and said EU officials must “pressure” Britain to stick to its word and complete its formal departure by 2019.

The most striking part of his speech, though, focuses on what he believes Britain must lose as an automatic result of Brexit.

He said Britain should lose its lucrative European financial passport, a decision that would be hugely damaging to the City because London would cease to be Europe’s central financial hub. In turn, he added, this would lead to waves of French talent working in the UK abandoning cities like London and returning to France to work.

The lawyer-turned-politician also believes that British officials should be excluded from having any say on decisions made in Brussels, while British MEPs should be barred from voting on legislation in EU Parliament, a move that would render their roles almost meaningless.

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