INTERVIEW: François-Xavier Bellamy

INFO magazine speaks with the French philosopher, author and MEP on trade, negotiations, and his views on the future of Europe

What is your message to the Franco- British business community?

We are in a difficult period for economy in businesses because we bear the burden of uncertainty. For people who run businesses, they have fiscal uncertainty and uncertainty around customs. In this context, it’s very difficult to attract new talent and develop new projects.

But we don’t have to eternally debate if Brexit was right or not. The question is how can we deal with the situation, and how can we offer to people who work in the UK and France a more transparent situation? It’s clear that we need to build a trade agreement. It won’t be easy because it’s the first time that this kind of agreement is made during a period in which our standards are not converging, but diverging – regulatorily speaking.

Will the UK pay a price for leaving the EU?

I’m totally opposed to the point of view of some European and French politicians saying that the UK has, in a way, to pay the price for leaving Europe. This is a wrong approach to the question. First, if the EU wants to be liked by Europeans, it cannot appear as a prison from which you need to pay in order to escape. We won’t make the EU more positive and we won’t give Europe a future if we try to show Europeans that it is hard to leave.

The second reason is that the UK is going to leave the EU, but it is not going to leave Europe. Geography has a meaning; history has a meaning. Our common cultural heritage is also something to cherish, and to continue to use as a foundation for our future.

Will France pay a price for Brexit?

The impact of the UK leaving will not be the same on all European nations. France could lose a lot in this situation. As we share a border with the UK, we know the intensity of the trade between the two countries. When, for example, you go to the region Hauts de France, the companies you meet say that they sometimes have one third or a half of their activity with the UK – for them it’s a big question. From an administrative point of view, France is going to bear the burden of the customs issue at the border. Therefore, we have a huge interest in building a new agreement with the UK, and continuing to have this useful exchange.

What do you see as the priorities going forward for the relationship?

On trade and the economy, we have to protect the interests of companies from Europe working in the UK, and of companies from the UK working in Europe. We have to adapt our borders and build a trade agreement which is useful. On the question of defence, I feel it is tightly-linked between France and the UK, but also between the EU and the UK. I will be 'shadow rapporteur' for the negotiations on the European Defence Fund on behalf of the EPP group in the European Parliament. It is the first time that Europe will have a common investment strategy in the defence industry, and I am in favour of the UK being part of this strategy. It would be a very useful way of continuing to share our special partnership.

We also need to create a platform on the basis of which we can continue to share our vision of the world, in order that we can continue to have in our strategies, political choices, and interventions in the rest of the world, a common ground to keep on being a strong Europe – which does not necessarily need to be inside the EU.

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