‘We’re not Brexit predators’: France denies it is trying to steal jobs from UK

The French Economy Minister has denied that Paris is trying to make the most of Brexit and take thousands of jobs from the UK. He also sounded the alarm bell for the ongoing negotiations saying, "time is running out".

'We're not Brexit predators': France denies it is trying to steal jobs from UK
Bruno Le Maire (right) insists France are not trying to undermine the UK to make the most of Brexit.

France has often been accused by certain elements of the British political class and the UK media of doing its utmost to gain from the fallout of the British public's shock decision to vote the EU.

But Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire tried to rubbish the idea that France was openly trying to take advantage of Brexit to boost Paris at the expense of London.

“We don't have a predatory vision when it comes to Brexit,” Le Maire told The Local and other members of the Anglo American Press Association in Paris on Monday.

“It's not about taking jobs from the UK, it's about (making France) more attractive – all in the framework of fair competition,” he said.

“I repeat: we don't have a predatory vision, it's not about making London lose out so Paris can gain. It's just about making Paris more attractive,” he said.

There will be some in the UK, particularly those involved in the Brexit negotiations, who might not believe him.

London has been irked by some of the agressive ad campaigns launched by French officials to persuade companies to move across the Channel. Some have even been banned.

READ ALSO: 'Merci Brexit' – Paris overtakes London as most attractive European capital

And in July last year the British finance sector's EU pointman warned in a leaked report that France was seeking to use Brexit to weaken the City of London.

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London,” Jeremy Browne, a former government minister who is the City's Brexit envoy, said in a memo after a trip to France.
Browne added that “every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further”.
But Le Maire insists France's only intention is to make Paris more attractive to bankers and believes measures the government has taken will see thousands of jobs move from London to the French capital.
“We have taken a certain number of measures to be more attractive whether it's around salaries, welcoming personnel, classes in English or dividends,” Le Maire said.
“Effectively this translates into an intention to relocalise a certain number of jobs that when calculated over a few years will number in the thousands.
Le Maire stressed that the government wants Paris to become a major financial centre and that measures they have taken, notably around tax cuts, are in order to achieve that aim.
In March this year Le Maire had already spoken of his confidence that “several thousand” jobs would relocate from London to Paris thanks to Brexit and also warned the UK any post-Brexit free trade deal struck between Britain and the European Union must not include financial services.
The president of the Paris region of Ile-de-France, Valerie Pecresse, has even spoken of 10,000 jobs relocating by next year.

Brexit negotiations are entering a crunch phase as talks continue on what the UK's future relationship with the EU will be, especially in the crucial area of trade.

While certain pro-Brexit politicians in the UK suggest Prime Minister Theresa May should be prepared to walk away without a deal, around 100,000 people marched in London on Saturday to demand a second referendum, this time on the terms of the divorce settlement from the EU.

When asked by The Local whether he would back a second referendum on Brexit in the UK, Le Maire declined to take sides but simply warned that “time was running out” to conclude Brexit talks in the right way.

“I must say time is running out and things are not progressing very much,” he said, adding that he regretted the Britain's vote to leave the EU.
“An event of such importance like Brexit needs preparation and decisions to be made… But I see we are arriving at the deadline and I don't have the feeling we will be ready and I can't hide the fact that I am worried about that because Brexit, whatever it will be, must happen in the right order. 
“If there are no other decisions taken by the British people then Brexit must happen in the right order.
“It must be prepared and the necessary choices and decisions need to be made. If they are not then it will be no good for anyone, neither the UK or the EU.”
Le Maire has been critical of the UK government's Brexit stance in the past, particularly over the amount of the so-called divorce bill that was eventually settled as part of the draft withdrawal agreement last December.
“We, Europeans, say to the British: 'We want our money back',” said Le Maire last October.

He accused Britain of trying to shirk the commitments it made to the EU's budget.

“It's as if you went to a restaurant, ordered a meal, began eating and then walked out in the middle of the meal, saying: 'I'm not going to pay after all'. That's not possible,” he said.

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Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”