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Two French views on Brexit: Should the Brits stay or go?

Two French views on Brexit: Should the Brits stay or go?

The Local · 16 Jun 2016, 15:30

Published: 16 Jun 2016 15:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Jun 2016 15:30 GMT+02:00

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Here are two conflicting French views on Brexit. 

Herve Mariton is an MP for the centre-right Les Republicains party and a candidate to become his party's presidential nominee.

Dear British friends,

You will vote on June 23rd to decide if you leave or remain in the European Union, a decision that will be essential for both of us for many years ahead. This is why I found it useful to speak to you.

I can already hear the sarcasm: "another French MP who wants to give us lessons from the height of his arrogance! " Be reassured, it is not the case. I'm not here to tell you that the seven plagues of Egypt will befall you if you leave the European Union, that your economy will be devastated, that the City will be in ashes or that your nation will be marginalized. Whatever happens, you are a great people.

If I speak to you, it is not to scare you, but with affection and interest. Just to say simply and sincerely how it is desirable that you stay with us.

I have always been inspired by British political and intellectual life. My political motto is a quote from Benjamin Disraeli: "I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good, a Radical to remove all That is bad". Preserve and reform, again and again: it is the task of all great political leaders.

This applies in particular to the European Union which must be profoundly reformed and simplified, in strict application of the principle of subsidiarity. Whatever issue can efficiently remain local should remain local. I know that you are legitimately attached to this principle. If you leave the EU, then you will isolate your allies on the continent who, like you, want to redirect the EU towards more efficiency.

The European Union must focus its action where it brings real added value. This is particularly the case with the common market, the first free trade area in the world.

Without you, who will defend a free trade agreement, fairly negotiated, with the United States? As the only candidate for the primary for the French presidential election to be really in favour of free trade, I need allies like you on this matter.

You are right to defend your interests in Europe, and I regret that past and current French governments have not, for our own sake, followed your example. Instead of criticizing the famous "British rebate", they would do better to try and negotiate a discount as well and to further monitor the European budget.

You made the sovereign choice not to enter the euro zone, no one should dispute it. This fully justifies that you do not have the same objectives of economic integration and convergence that members of the eurozone, including France. This does not mean you are relegated to a second division, but simply that the idea of ​​ Europe "à la carte" is fruitful. A Europe of freedom, not a Europe of constraint.

Dear friends, stay within the European Union. Let us pursue together the task initiated by your Prime Minister David Cameron during his negotiations with the European Union to make it simpler and more democratic. There is still much work to do. 

In conclusion, let me quote a great architect of Franco-British friendship, Talleyrand: "Yes and No words are the shortest and the easiest to pronounce but those that require the most consideration." Keep this in mind for June 23rd.

Long live to the Franco-British friendship. Vive la France and God Save the Queen!

Journalist Christophe Barbier is the editor of the centre-left leaning newspaper l'Express. 

Photo: AFP

I am for the English departure of the EU.

I think it would be better for them and better for us. Better for them because it’s clear they have an identity that doesn’t tie them to the European continent. And even if all the economic and financial reasons advocate for them to stay in the Union, the profound political reasons argue for a departure. 

This won’t make them the enemies of Europe or strangers to Europe. It will just make them the English, make them partners. 

Of course this will pose them a whole host of problems, and for Ireland and Scotland. These need to be dealt with one at a time. Scotland for example has designs to completely integrate itself into Europe as an independent nation, but that’s another battle.

This Brexit is also a good thing for Europe, because it will force us to no longer think about Europe as a spineless territory that can expand infinitely only for commercial reasons, but to once again see Europe as a political project.

A political project, that’s to say, federal directions. We need to start with those who share the Euro and there really integrate our politics, have the same budget, the same educational policy, the same social ambitions, the same economic strategies, to make one large European nation around the Franco-German nucleus.

And having of course, for each of the nations that compose this nation, respect for identity, traditions, and models. But we must share strategy, to have it in common, starting with the Franco-German duo. 

This start of a new story, this start of a new Europe, is set for June 23rd. If the Brits choose to leave, then a new Europe will be possible.

If they choose to stay, it will be necessary to keep going with new rules. It will be difficult, it will be painful, it won’t be understandable. Whatever the future of Europe, whatever the result of June 23rd, this makes imminent the role and the work of the future leaders of Germany and France.

Will Hollande be re-elected next year? Will Merkel? Or instead will we have two other men or women at the head of our countries? It will be up to them to assume this responsibility. 

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