Sunday

5th Feb 2023

Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May

  • Macron: "If you want access to the single market ... it means you need to contribute" (Photo: elysee.fr)

French president Emmanuel Macron warned British prime minister Theresa May on Thursday (18 January) that if the UK wants to maintain the level of access for London's financial centre to the EU's single market, Britain would have to pay into the EU budget after Brexit.

"The choice is on the British side, not on my side," Macron said at the joint press conference.

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"If you want access to the single market, including the financial services, be my guest. But it means that you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction," Macron warned.

"I'm here neither to punish nor to reward," he added.

The French president stuck to the EU's Brexit negotiating line when telling the UK prime minister that she either accepts the EU's rules to retain the City's market access, or negotiates a looser tie along the lines of a Canada-type trade deal with the EU.

"If you want a trade access, it will cover everything, but then it is not full access to the single market and to financial services," Macron told May.

He added that while he does not rule out including the financial sector in a UK-EU trade agreement, the level of market access will not be the same as when being a member of the single market.

May confirmed that the UK wants to leave the single market, but aims for a bespoke agreement with the EU.

"We recognise that as we're leaving the European Union we will no longer be full members of the single market," May told reporters.

London's financial services employ more than 2.2 million people and contribute 11 percent of economic output.

Macron travelled to the UK for the first time since becoming president last year, as Britain tries to strengthen ties before leaving the EU in March 2019.

Last year, Macron launched a charm offensive on banks in London's City to lure them to Paris.

He has already won one Brexit 'trophy' - EU countries decided last year that the European Banking Authority (EBA), one of the EU agencies that has to relocate from London, will be move to Paris after Brexit.

May and Macron emphasised the historic ties between their countries on Thursday in what was a cordial meeting, despite France holding the toughest line in Brexit negotiations.

The two leaders – meeting at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst – agreed to boost their defence cooperation.

Britain will send helicopters to help French counterterrorism operations against Islamist extremists in Mali, while France will send troops to a UK-led battle group in Estonia helping to deter Russian aggression.

France and Britain, the two European nuclear powers, account for half of the defence spending in the EU.

No jungle

May also agreed to sign a "complementing" treaty to the 2003 Touquet border deal, which allows British border checks to be carried out in France.

The northern French port town that had seen a large tent-city of migrants. The so-called 'jungle' camp was bulldozed in 2016.

Still hundreds of people camp out there, hoping to stow away on trucks heading for the UK.

The 'Sandhurst Treaty', as Macron called it, is aimed at speeding up asylum procedures by migrants, including minors, in Calais to prevent another tent-city from forming.

Against the backdrop of Conservative party criticism, May pledged €50 million to beef up border controls in the French port of Calais.

As a sign of goodwill, Macron agreed to loan a 950-year-old Bayeux tapestry depicting William the Conqueror's victory in the Battle of Hastings, which has never left France before.

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