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What France says will be the impact of Brexit

From the City of London to migrants, here's what the French president and his government believe will be some of the major knock-on effects of Brexit.

What France says will be the impact of Brexit
Photo: Oli Bac/Flickr

On the City of London

Britain's City of London financial district would have to give up its role in processing euro currency transactions after it leaves the European Union, French President Francois Hollande has warned.

The issue of whether euro clearing houses can remain in the British capital is set to be one of the most contentious issues as Britain seeks to negotiate its future trade relationship with the EU after its departure.

Britain has jealously guarded its status and won a recent EU court decision against the European Central Bank in order to keep hosting the euro deals.

Hollande said other European financial centres should be ready to take over from London, which is home to many banking clearing houses that deal with euros.

“There is no reason for Europe, and still less the eurozone, to allow a country that is no longer a member of the European Union and has never been a member of the eurozone to continue operations in euros,” Hollande said after a summit in Brussels.

The French leader added that European financial centres should “prepare to take on a certain number of operations that can no longer be done in Britain”.

On making Paris stronger

In a separate interview with French business daily Les Echos Hollande said France itself should “adapt its regulations, including fiscal (regulations) to make the Paris financial centre more attractive”.

On Tuesday, the president of Paris Europlace, a group that promotes French finance, met with Finance Minister Michel Sapin to suggest ways of boosting the French capital's ability to woo City bankers.

On Hinkley point nuclear project

A controversial project by French energy giant EDF to build two nuclear reactors in Britain has become “more difficult” following the country's vote to leave the European Union, France's finance minister said on Wednesday.

“It is more difficult,” Michel Sapin told the BBC, adding that the French government however was still committed to the Hinkley Point project going ahead.

“We have to see where we are, we have to recover our balance. Brexit has made waves,” Sapin said on the Newsnight programme.

The planned nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in southwest England has been billed as a crucial part of Britain's future energy supply.

But critics say it is too expensive.

A joint project between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corporation, it carries a projected price tag of £18 billion ($24 billion, €21.7 billion), making it one of the world's most costly nuclear power plants.

Unions at the majority state-owned EDF have sought to delay committing to the project due to concerns that it could bankrupt the company, which has more than 37 billion euros in debt.

'Everything on the table'

Speaking to the BBC finance Minister Michel Sapin said everything would be up for negotiation.

“When we negotiate with a country, a third party, Norway, Switzerland, to take countries that are very close, we discuss all subjects: under what conditions there is freedom of movement of people; freedom of movement of goods; of capital. That is something that is very important for the UK, with all the questions about financial services. So we discuss everything.

Sapin added: “Everything will be on the table because Britain will make proposals, and we will negotiate all these aspects with a desire to come to an agreement. But we’re not there yet, until we have an official decision from the UK.”

But he stressed: “Britain won’t be in the same position as it was beforehand. Things will change. Things have already changed. We return to zero … a clean slate.”

Border at Calais

Hollande said Wednesday that Britain's vote to leave the EU should not affect a deal to stop migrants crossing the Channel, which led to many being stuck at camps in Calais.

“Calling into question the Touquet deal on the pretext that Britain has voted for Brexit and will have to start negotiations to leave the union doesn't make sense,” Hollande said after an EU summit in Brussels.

The so-called Le Touquet accord, reached in 2003, effectively moved Britain's border with France to the French side of the Channel, where migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have massed in their thousands.

It notably allows for British border controls in Channel ports in France.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed there would be no changes to the accord as he met with Calais officials in Paris.

“The border at Calais is closed and will remain so,” he said.

Scotland can't be part of the negotiations

French President Francois Hollande made the same point separately.

“The negotiations will be with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom,” Hollande told reporters after the summit.

“It is only in this context that it will be possible to envisage situations, solutions that might concern Scotland,” he added.

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Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

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The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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