France’s hardline stance during the Brexit process should not come as a surprise, as French politicians have often made their disdain clear. Speaking at an event on global trade in Paris, France’s Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire called on “lying and irresponsible” Brexiteers to abandon their project unless they wanted to face economic meltdown. He said: “Every person is free to decide to leave the single market and the European Union.
“But what Brexit shows is that the economic cost of leaving the single market is simply exorbitant and that there are many lying and irresponsible politicians, who in Great Britain have explained to the British people that Brexit would result in bright tomorrows.
“The truth is that, economically, Brexit can result in a nightmare.”
Mr Le Maire said it was time for Brexiteers to acknowledge their mistake and row back on leaving the EU.
He noted: “The British politicians, who have argued for Brexit, now have a choice between reneging on their absurd political promise or an economic disaster of which the British people will be the first victim.”
The French Minister said that, faced with a global trade war, Europe’s single market was a “considerable strength and protection”.
He added in 2018: “We have a single market which is the largest commercial market in the world, which is our pride and our strength. And we want to defend this single market.”
A few months later, French President Emmanuel Macron also went as far as to accuse Brexiteers of being “liars”.
He said: “Brexit is the choice of the British people, a choice pushed by those who predicted easy solutions.
“They are liars, they left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.
“It’s not so easy to leave the EU, it’s not without a cost, it’s not without consequences.
“Michel Barnier has presented us many details in a very convincing way on how the backstop is going to work … respecting citizens and companies while protecting borders and the integrity of the single market.”
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Despite France’s verbal attacks, since the referendum, Paris has been actively seeking to exploit Brexit to disrupt and degrade Britain’s lucrative financial sector.
After attending talks with various French authorities in 2017, former Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, who was acting as the City of London’s envoy on Brexit, said in a leaked memo that his time in Paris had been “the worst”, with the French open about their desire to see the UK weakened.
Mr Browne, who met banking chiefs, senior politicians and diplomats, wrote: “They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London.
“The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption.
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“They actively seek disaggregation of financial services provision.
“Every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further, making a virtue of rejecting a partnership model with Britain and seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary.”
Mr Browne – a Liberal Democrat minister in the coalition under David Cameron and Nick Clegg – said hostility to the UK was not confined to a few officials but represented a “whole-of -France collective endeavour”.
He added: “The clear messages emanating from Paris are not just the musings of a rogue senior official in the French government or central bank. France could not be clearer about their intentions. They see Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners.”
The memo was originally published in the Mail on Sunday.