French president Emmanuel Macron has warned that Britain’s financial services industry will have less access to the European Union if the UK leaves the single market – a stark illustration of the risks British businesses may face as the country negotiates its exit from the EU.
Speaking at a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday evening, Macron emphasised that an eventual Brexit deal will not offer a special deal or “differentiated access” for the City, and that Britain most choose what it wants to prioritise.
The UK can take a Norway-style model that involves contributing to the EU budget and acknowledging its jurisdiction, he said, or it could opt for Canada-like trade access. “We have some trade agreements which allow access to all services, be they financial or others, access as well to any industry sector, but not the same level of relationship as if you were a member of the single market.”
The president warned that there cannot be any leeway on this point: “And there shall be no hypocrisy in this respect, otherwise it will not work. Or we would destroy the single market and its coherence.”
If the UK was willing to fulfil the requirements for full single market access, Macron said, “be my guest.”
“Please allow me to be very clear. I’m here neither to punish nor to reward. I want to make sure that the single market is preserved because that is very much at the heart of the European Union.
“So the choice is on the British side, not on my side. They can have no differentiated access to financial services. If you want access to the single market, including the financial services, be my guest. But it means that you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction. Such are the rules and we know this is the system already in place for Norway.
“If you want a trade access, it will cover everything, but then it is not full access to the single market and to financial services. Otherwise it’s closer to the situation of Canada. We have some trade agreements which allow access to all services, be they financial or others, access as well to any industry sector, but not the same level of relationship as if you were a member of the single market. And there shall be no hypocrisy in this respect, otherwise it will not work. Or we would destroy the single market and its coherence.
“So, its’s simple. I would not want to exclude any sector in the trade agreement to come. The negotiations will be led by Michel Barnier. But it does not mean that the access it will allow will be equivalent to [being] a member of the single market. Otherwise you can choose between Norway, or being the equivalent of a current member of the European Union.”