• France edition
Britain and the EU: The view from France

Britain and the EU: The view from France

Published: 24 Jan 2013 10:00 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Jan 2013 10:00 GMT+01:00

How has France reacted to British Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU? The Local speaks to business leaders, academics and expats with widely varying viewpoints.

From the press to politicians and business experts to expats The Local gauges some of the reaction in France to the now real possibility that Britain could one day leave the EU.

The business community:

The Vice President of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce Michel de Fabiani told The Local he was not surprised by David Cameron’s announcement but said any exit from the EU would have a negative impact on cross-channel trade.

“In terms of business between France and Britain it would not be good if the UK left the EU. The EU works in favour of British and French businesses as well as for companies from other member states. It’s a huge market of 450 million people. It is the nearest market to Britain which logistically is very important and it's one of the wealthiest.

"Whatever happens in the referendum it will be in the interests of businesses in both countries to preserve the common market. I can’t imagine we would have tax barriers and raise import and export duties because this would be going back to the old days.

"My advice to French or British businesses is to continue investing as normal on both sides of the Channel. Britain leaving the EU is not going to happen in the short term anyway and I can’t imagine there will not be some kind of pragmatic arrangements made.

The academic view:

Economics professor at HEC business school in Paris, Tomasz Michalski, told The Local a departure from the EU would have knock-on effects for France.

“This would be a disaster, not only for Britain but for other countries in the EU like France who have strong links with the UK. The trade links and investment links between the two countries would be negatively affected. Obviously a lot would depend on what policies the UK would or wouldn’t adhere to if they left. There will also be a question over the impact on the thousands of Britons living in France and vice versa.

"In a nutshell there would be downsides for France because Britain is a big trading partner but it's very difficult at this stage to get a figure on how much it would be affected. Doing business in France for UK companies would undoubtedly be more difficult."

From a tax point of view:

French-born solicitor and tax specialist Patrick Delas, who works for London-based firm Russell-Cooke told The Local the impact on ex-pats of a British exit from the EU would be minimal.

“France and Britain signed reciprocal tax treaties outside of the EU, so these would not be affected. There may be an issue over the level of capital gains tax which will rise if Britain leaves the EU,” he said.

The ex-pat view:

Cate Carnduff, of Dordogne estate agents Herman de Graaf told The Local: “I find it very hard to imagine that anything significant will change, because the links between the countries are so strong. It’s all blah blah if you ask me. This will die down and we’ll all be talking about something else next week.”

France based ex-pat Andrew Hearne told The Local: “I couldn't really care less as long as it doesn't affect my ability to live here with my French other half and kids. If it does, then I'll fill in the naturalization forms, that are here waiting to be filled in, long before any eventual change knowing that the process takes a couple of years to complete.”

Another ex-pat Brian English was more concerned. "looking at the worst case scenario of UK leaving the eurozone totally and all relevant agreements being stopped then I would suggest it could have a big impact on many, especially those who are retired," he told The Local. "Imagine for example the loss of health cover agreements so retired people could not access healthcare in France other than on a 100% private route."

The French press:

“'To be or not be' dans l’Europe” was just one of the many headlines referring to Cameron’s pledge for a referendum as his speech dominated most news websites.

In an article titled “40 years of British scepticism towards Europe” Left-leaning daily Le Monde said Cameron’s announcement was simply “part of a tradition of British euro-scepticism that has developed since 1973”. Le Monde questions however whether Cameron’s promise is just a tactic to put pressure on Britain’s EU partners before negotiations begin over the EU budget next month.

An editorial in right-leaning Le Figaro says Cameron has reignited the debate on a two-speed Europe. "For Britain leaving the EU but maintaining a key role at the heart of the market is a reasonable compromise" but Le Figaro accepts that such an solution would all depend on smoothing over "frustrations" on both sides of the English Channel.

The French government:

France’s politicians made it clear on Wednesday they wanted Britain to remain in the EU.

In an interview with France Info radio French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a referendum would place Britain in peril.

"It risks being dangerous for Britain itself because Britain outside of Europe, that will be difficult," Fabius said, adding that Britain could not treat Europe as an "a la carte menu".

"We hope Britain can make a positive contribution to Europe. Imagine the EU as a football club. When you join it, you are in. You cannot just decide to go and play rugby," Fabius added.

President François Hollande warned Britain that it would not be possible to negotiate the terms of its EU membership.

 "The United Kingdom can perfectly well decide in a referendum to stay in or leave the European Union, that's a decision for the rulers of the country and the British people themselves," Hollande told reporters.

"But what I say on behalf of France, and also as a European, is that it is not possible to negotiate Europe for this referendum."

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

2013-02-15 13:16:27 by merlu free
Call back De Gaulle, the old man had a sharp point of view : England with the USA ,and France with continental Europe.
Today's headlines
Le Pen's unholy alliance hoping to destroy the EU
France's National Front party is trying to build a European far-right coalition. Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

Le Pen's unholy alliance hoping to destroy the EU

France’s National Front party is trying to unite a multi-nation, far-right alliance ahead of next month’s crucial European elections. The distinctly anti-EU mob would include Nazi sympathisers, anti-Muslim leaders and fervent nationalists. We take a closer look. READ () »

Chinese crackdown hurts French booze sales
A Chinese crackdown on leaders posh gifts and lavish meals has hurt French booze sales. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP

Chinese crackdown hurts French booze sales

French booze sales in China have taken a hit after party leaders cracked down on extravagant gift-giving and sumptuous feasts in the wake of several stinging corruption scandals. READ () »

Blood on cloth didn't belong to King Louis XVI
A gourd said to hold the blood of France's last king, Louis XVI, in fact doesn't. Photo: File

Blood on cloth didn't belong to King Louis XVI

Scientists say a morbid souvenir from the execution of France's last king, a cloth dipped in his blood, is a fake. The long controversial keepsake has previously been verified as containing the blood of Louis XVI. READ () »

The view from La Rue
Parisians really are rude to tourists -  true or false?
Is the rude Parisian waiter more of a myth than a reality? We ask tourists visiting Paris to decide. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Parisians really are rude to tourists - true or false?

Almost a year ago it seemed like stories of Parisians being rude to tourists would soon be a thing of the past, when city tourist chiefs published a guide on how to better welcome visitors. The Local took to the streets to see if tourists had noticed a difference. READ () »

France bids to cut EU's reliance on Russian gas
A view of the Russian gas giant Gazprom's recently built Adler thermal power plant. France wants to cut Europe's reliance on Russian gas. Photo: Yuri Kabodnov/AFP

France bids to cut EU's reliance on Russian gas

As the Ukraine crisis intensifes and threatens to divide Russia from the West, France and Poland made a joint call for a European-wide energy union that would help reduce dependence on Russian gas supplies. READ () »

Family pretend to be French to rob jewellers
Pretending to be French to rob a jewellers. That's a new one. Photo: Shutterstock

Family pretend to be French to rob jewellers

A family managed to steal €180,000 worth of jewellery from a plush shop in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo. Their modus operandi: pretending to be French to give off an air of sophistication. READ () »

Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village
Scores of neo-Nazis descended on a tranquil French village. The local mayor had no idea what he had let himself in for. Photo: Scott Olsen/AFP

Neo-Nazi Hitler party shocks French village

The mayor of a small village in eastern France was forced to explain this week how he ended up giving the green light for a neo-Nazi party commemorating the 125th anniversiary of Hitler’s birth. The mayor said he presumed it was just going to be an ordinary birthday party. READ () »

One in five French workers is a civil servant
France's population of civil servants has continued to grow. Photo: Crowd.

One in five French workers is a civil servant

New data out this week shows France’s civil service has continued its nearly unbroken chain of growth since 1980. The figures, however, leave out a whole swath of people who are also on the government payroll. READ () »

French taxi wars: New plan to end bitter feud
A new proposal seeks to end the French taxi war. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

French taxi wars: New plan to end bitter feud

An eagerly awaited series of proposed reforms were due out on Thursday aimed at ending the ongoing war between highly regulated taxi drivers and private hire car firms, which has wrought havoc on French roads. The proposals seek to make the rules fairer for both sides. READ () »

Ukraine crisis
France to send fighter jets to patrol Baltics
France is to send four fighter jets to patrol over the Baltics, in a show of solidarity as tension mounts of Russia's agression i nthe Ukraine. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP

France to send fighter jets to patrol Baltics

France is sending four of its fighter jets to patrol over the Baltic states in a symbolic show of solidarity amid growing anxiety in the region over Russia's intervention in Ukraine. President François Hollande is also set to pay a visit to Georgia in the coming weeks. READ () »

The view from La Rue: Are Parisians really that rude to tourists?
How to avoid a French wedding nightmare
Reader Rants: Why sacked French ministers deserve no pity
How well do you know your French text message lingo?
Divorced from reality? French plan for puppy custody laws
'Burgundy is for wine not wind': Will wind farms ruin famous wine region?
Why does France have a record number of people behind bars?
VIDEO: Take a look inside Paris’s first luxury hotel for cats
French parents are the most laidback about their kids' education. True?
What do French TV viewers complain about the most? Yes it's English
Business & Money
French tax declarations: The key points to remember
French slang: Everyday words you need to know (but use cautiously)
Paris cops told to ‘purge’ Roma from posh neighbourhood
VIDEO: ‘Anti-French’ Cadillac ad sparks anger in France. See why.
Buying property in France? Here's 10 things you need to think about
What will the future map of France look like? The answer lies within.
'The 27 French regions aren't the problem, it's the 36,000 towns'
Ex underage call girl Zahia picked to embody Marie Antoinette
Buying a house in France? Ten things you need to think about
France bans work emails after 6pm! Sadly it's not quite true.
Reader Rants: Why don't the French do charity? Is it down to taxes?
VIDEO: The Paris zoo is back but this time the animals are in charge
This will be the most expensive road in France - Only €1.66bn for 12km!
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se