UK can’t have outside the EU what it had inside, says President

European Union – United Kingdom/security and defence/economy/recruitment of Mr Manuel Barroso by Goldman Sachs – Excerpts from the interview given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to TF1 and France 2 (excerpts)

Paris, 14 July 2016

(…)

Brexit

THE PRESIDENT – The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is beyond our control – the British decided it –, but it does have consequences.

Q. – Do you fear its effects?

THE PRESIDENT – I’m being very careful. I wouldn’t want an unfortunate decision, because that’s what it is, unfortunate…

Q. – But sovereign.

THE PRESIDENT – But sovereign, it’s their choice, but they must accept the consequences of it. We’re seeing that the pound has lost a lot of its value, their economic activity is retracting; OK, it’s their choice, but it mustn’t impact on our own economy. So the sooner the Prime Minister – because she’s just been chosen, Mrs May – begins the procedure for the UK to leave the European Union, the better the future relationship between Europe and the UK will be, and the better our own situation will be. (…)

Q. – So, Europe. A new situation, Brexit. Everyone is saying, and you’re saying it too, that we must revitalize Europe and show that we’ve listened to the Europeans’ message – not just Brexit, but the scepticism, the widespread mistrust which is on the rise in Europe – and we’re hearing a lot of intent, but what’s actually going to happen when it’s clear to see that Europe is split, if only between Western and Central Europe?

THE PRESIDENT – First, the British have taken a decision, which is to leave. (…) So the Prime Minister, Theresa May, must give the notification essential for the negotiation [and] reduce uncertainty. I repeated [this] to her on the telephone. It was our first contact, and with all necessary courtesy, congratulating her on her appointment, I said to her: “well, you’ve made a choice, you’re confirming it, you’re even appointing the man who advocated the UK leaving Europe, Mr Johnson, as Foreign Secretary.

Q. – Do you regret this?

THE PRESIDENT – It’s her choice. We’re not going to decide the British government’s composition. (…)

EU challenges/protection of citizens/defence and security/employment/Euro Area

Q. – But what’s the initiative in concrete terms, because the word “European initiative” has been talked about a great deal…

THE PRESIDENT – Well, this is very important because it’s Europe’s future that’s being decided. If Europe is paralysed because we’ve got a United Kingdom which isn’t lodging its request, which is carrying out negotiations… We’ve got to be clear: the UK can’t have outside what it had inside. That’s finished. When you’re no longer in, you no longer have the advantages of [being in] that situation.

For Europe, I’ve suggested fresh impetus is given. For me, the essential thing is the protection of Europeans. Why is Europe arousing this mistrust? Because it doesn’t offer protection. It doesn’t protect its borders; it doesn’t offer enough protection as regards the terrorist threat; it doesn’t protect as regards the movement of certain people; and because it doesn’t protect employees either; it doesn’t necessarily protect businesses vis-à-vis certain trade negotiations. The first initiative I took is one for defence, protection and security. (…)

It isn’t France which will make the most efforts; France is doing more than it has to in terms of defence and security. And Germany has just decided – this is a very important point – to make a greater commitment to defence.

Q. – For its defence.

THE PRESIDENT – For ours, because we’re allies and because we’ll act together, including for projection abroad. What matters is that we’re not going to create a European army, we’re going to create national armies that will have common goals. Including for foreign interventions.

The second initiative is investment and employment, and young people. (…) It was young Britons who wanted to remain in the European Union. So what we must do is double, in the next five years, what the Juncker Plan has done, the investments that have been made, so that there’s more support for business, for employment, and particularly for young people.

The third initiative is the Euro Area – which is really our heritage, the currency we have – and our ability to have a Euro Area budget, a Euro Area government, a Euro Area finance minister, and also the ability to make investments. And what Europe has lacked most – and we must be aware of this – is democratic control. And there too, I’ll be making proposals to ensure that national parliaments are more involved, and citizens too. There must be big debates on Europe.

Goldman Sachs/Barroso appointment

Q. – Do you say it’s no longer acceptable for a former president of the European Commission – José Manuel Barroso, for example – to get recruited by Goldman Sachs 18 months or two years later?

THE PRESIDENT – It’s not about Europe! It’s about morality!

Q. – What he’s doing is totally legal…

THE PRESIDENT – Of course! But I’m not talking to you about legality. I’m talking to you about morality.

Q. – Why not change it? Why is Europe focusing on shower heads and goat cheese and not this? This is about ethics, it’s about morality, it’s about the conduct of elected representatives!

THE PRESIDENT – Ethics and morality aren’t linked to an institution! They’re linked to individuals. Mr Barroso was President for 10 years. It wasn’t me who chose him – some people will see that choice as their own. Mr Barroso was leader of the European Commission for 10 years, at the time of the crisis sparked by so-called subprimes, of which Goldman Sachs was one of the flagship establishments, as it were – Goldman Sachs, which crops up in the Greek case, because it was Goldman Sachs that advised the Greeks and massaged the figures Greece gave the European Union a few years ago. And a few years later we learn that Mr Barroso is going to join Goldman Sachs. Legally it’s possible, but morally – this concerns the individual – it’s morally unacceptable./.

Published on 18/07/2016

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