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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A view from France: "Long live Europe without the UK!"

Last week, we noted how the German media's reaction to David Cameron's Europe speech had been cautious, but receptive. Unsurprisingly, the French press has been much less receptive to the British Prime Minister's call for a reformed EU. In today's Les Echos, Jean-Marc Vittori pulls no punches:

The headline is, “Long live Europe without the UK!”. Here are the key sections:
“The British have always considered the EU as a big market… [Since their EU entry] they have favoured everything which could expand this market. They have supported all the enlargements which took the EU from six to 27 members. They backed the strengthening of competition rules (which was a good thing).”


“At the same time, they have consistently resisted everything that went beyond that. They dug their heels in on the institutional reform made necessary by the enlargement itself (a business or a family dinner do not work the same way with six or 27 people). They resorted to opt-outs to escape the common policies – the single currency, of course, but also the Schengen security area, the Chart of Fundamental Rights and judicial cooperation.”

“And it’s not everything. The British act as ‘free riders’, as clandestine passengers. They have benefited from European monetary stability in normal times, and from the devaluation of their currency in times of crisis (during the early 1990s and over the past few years). They also know, better than others, how to have the [legislative] projects favourable to them passed in Brussels.”


“Nowadays, the eurozone can't just be a market and a currency. After the shake-ups of the last three years, it has (finally) become clear that it must be a space of solidarity – that word the British dislike so much (I want my money back). The Greek bailout, the creation of the European Stability Mechanism or the banking union plan all show this, each one in a different way. The other members of the Union are not obliged to enter this logic, even if they did ratify a treaty establishing that all countries aimed to join it. But they can no longer hope to be part of a Union without solidarity.”

“The UK has been a brake for the EU for a long time. It now risks becoming [the EU’s] ball and chain…Europe without the UK would do better than the UK without Europe. Since no exclusion procedure exists, we can only hope that the British themselves decide their eviction by referendum in 2017. With one brake less, Europe will then have more chances to accelerate.” 
Pretty strong stuff. Especially coming from a business daily, which should be more aware than others that the UK is an asset to the EU. Perhaps Monsieur Vittori should have a quick look at our recent 'Right speech, right time?' briefing, in which we noted that: a UK exit from the EU would shrink the single market by 15%, with £261.4 billion in annual European exports (up from £165.25 billion in 2001) potentially facing extra costs; a €14 billion hole would open up in the EU budget; and the EU's geopolitical clout would be substantially reduced.

Would it really be in the best interests of France?


Jesper said...

I have to ask, was this bit translated accurately:
"solidarity – that word the British dislike so much (I want my money back)."

Is asking to be paid back a loan somehow inconsistent with solidarity?

I suppose the word solidarity could have different meaning to different people. It might be time to agree on the definition of the word solidarity and until that is done it might be wise to stop using that particular word.

Open Europe blog team said...

Thanks Jesper. The author actually refers to Margaret Thatcher's famous 'I want my money back' comment a couple of times in the article – and he uses it in English in the piece.

This is the original:

Après les secousses de ces trois dernières années, il est (enfin) devenu évident qu'elle doit être un espace de solidarité, ce mot qui plaît si peu aux Britanniques ("I want my money back").

Admittedly the meaning did get a bit lost in our translation. The author writes earlier in the article that Margaret Thatcher “had summarised her vision of Europe in a shocking formula: I want my money back”. So he basically uses the comment as a way to show the UK’s lack of solidarity when it comes to the EU.

jon livesey said...

In a sense this article sums up the mutual incomprehension in the EU quite nicely.

To someone from the UK, talking about it being a problem that the EU is "only" a market and a currency makes no sense.

The EU isn't our only trading partner. If you count the end users of exports it isn't even our majority trading partner, and with our other trading partners a market and a currency really are the only requirements.

In other words, once you go beyond a market and a currency, you are adopting optional relationships that not everyone needs to sign up for.

And there is a bad logical flaw in the article. When they talk about the UK being a "brake" on Europe, they are really talking about *their* insistence on involving the UK in things we are fundamentally not very interested in.

The UK won't have a veto on issues that don't affect the UK, so the simply answer is to change the UK's relationship with the Eu to a trading-only relationship, and then the rest of the Eu can charge ahead and do all the wonderful things they keep promising themselves they are going to do.

Of course, they might want to fix negative growth, 11.5% unemployment and high deficits, sclerotic labour markets and over-regulation9563 first, but that's up to them.

Ray said...

DeGaulle saw all this coming, that was why he didn't want the brits in in the first place.He knew that it was no more than a club to support the French, and to help their ancient systems continue, and avoid the political problems that would come with trying to change a entrenched system of corruption and favour.
Somehow they have managed to maintain this unbalanced system in their favour, now it's going to come under threat and the French are running scared.

Anonymous said...

Solidarity is a Communist concept... workers of the World unite; common ownership of wealth an the means of its production, etc.

In the French mentality, solidarity translates, what's yours is mine, and what's mine is my own: you give, we take.

This is at the heart of the social democrat, dirigiste model, capitalist free market enterprise provides the cash, so the enlightened Left wing types can spend it to exercise their favourite hobby horses, give to their cronies and buy votes.

Hence why France... est dans le merde.

As for the EU accelerating without the UK, yep, straight for the cliff edge.

Rollo said...

There is no single market for SMEs.
The French have been sponging off the EU for years; only recently have they started to pay in more than they get out; What else have they got? A feeling of self importance, very dear to the French. They like to see the French Cock and the German Eagle wing-in-wing bestriding Europe and even the World. Of course what the world remembers is the French Poule akimbo being shafted by the German eagle somewhere near Vichy.
When they do something useful, however, we should back them: well done Hollande for taking on the Mali extremists.
And here again we should back them: UK OUT OF EU ! Bien dit, les mangeurs de grenouilles.

Dewi said...

why Cameron refuses us a referendum before the next election God only knows - the rest of the EU have already told him he can 'cough' (fur variety) and they are not interested in handing back any power - surely if he held the referendum pretty soon he would have far more ammunition going into the talks - i.e the public I represent are wanting out and it is up to you now to halt this and the only way you can achieve this is to negotiate repatriating powers back to the UK - the ball is then in their court - if they want us out altogether thats great and lets get on with it but although they cannot actually kick us out they can refuse to take us seriously and kick us to the sidelines - and there is Camerons answer - the sooner we are free of these unelected idiots interfeering in everything that does not concern them but just wanting further interation all the time they can shove it where the sun don't shine -

when you consider it the Germs are achieving with the pen what they could not achieve with the jackboot twice - indeed the pen is mightier than the sword in this case

Anonymous said...

I have worked in France and Belgium Holland Germany and Italy
Solidarity is highly specific in France most of all. It comes from the Revolutionary philosophers ( Rights of Man etc)and (understandably) reflects the effort needed to get rid of the French absolute monarchy. (It is why probably the Polish Union resisting communist occupation was called Solidarity)

But the French having got rid of the monarchy did not replace the dirigiste methods of Richelieu Mazarin et al. After all any politician ( including the blessed Margaret) likes to centralise and micro manage
It is not a popular British concept - the nearest is the ethos of the mining Unions, so Anonymous is right about its socialist intent. Remember the French do not philosophically regard business as a worthwhile occupation and cheerfully ignore the taxes and employment it provides

But the French are not by any means idiots - they recognise self interest probably more than anybody

So that is Cameron's job - to recognise the self interest of the others as well as that of the UK and negotiate with a plan

It's going to be interesting

Denis Cooper said...

Actually over the past century we've shown a lot of "solidarity" with the French, but while the French people may have appreciated that their politicians have mainly resented it.

Our young men slaughtered on the Somme to take some of the pressure off the French at Verdun ... an offer of political union in 1940, for God's sake, to make it clear that while Britain fought on against the Nazis there would always be hope for France ... our young men losing life and limb in that cause, when most of the French politicians were willing to collaborate ...

But if that is how most of the people of France really feel about us, rather than it being just this one bloke, why on earth should we want to pursue a process of "ever closer union" with them?


Delighted to read the French view. However illogical and mistaken it is, what it demonstrates is that they don't want us in the EU.

That's fine by me - why would I want to live in a terminally incompetent not to say terminally corrupt State based on principles that are the atithesis of everything this county has stood for and pioneered for centuries - freedom, democracy, free trade, capitalism and all the rest.

All grist to the mill, there is no longer any doubt we will leave.

Amnrose Evans-Prirchard wrote in Monday's Telegraph about the people in other EU countries feeling the same as we increasingly do, and that Holland is now discussing a referendum on leaving. He also agreed, via a friend, with my comment that Cameron seems to have lit the fuse under the EU without even realising it.

Agreeing with Denis Cooper - Churchill ordered that Frenc troops should be picked up from Dunkirk and about 50,000 (I think)were, leavin the same number of our troops there to face 4 years or prisob camps where many died.

Within a few days those French troops deciced to go home and surrender. Tnanks a bunch, mon ami.

Peter Shore's son reported in his book that deG Gaule agreed with MacMillan that the British would have to be fooled into thinking the coming EU State was only about trade as they would never agree to join if they knew the truth.

Denis Cooper said...

Dewi -

"why Cameron refuses us a referendum before the next election God only knows"

It's very very simple: if he just GIVES us a referendum now then he can't SELL it to us later, his already stated price being our votes for the mostly crap official candidates of his irredeemably crap political party at the next election.

In Switzerland citizens can petition for and obtain a referendum as of right; but we don't want to be some kind of "greater Switzerland", do we; oh no, we prefer to have to wait until some corrupt self-seeking treacherous politician is prepared to SELL us a referendum.

Andrew Smith said...

We are repeatedly told the UK is so pathetic we cannot run our own country. Seemingly we know so little about international trade, investment and finance after several hundred years that we would not be able to carry on trading with other nations if we leave the EU.

It also seems that "solidarity" is understood by the French to mean we do what they tell us but they do not do what the rules say. It means we pay heavily for being in a customs union we were never told about while they gain massively from our fish and our food markets.

If that is what the French mean by "solidarity" what do they mean by fraternity and liberty; not the same as us, I expect.

terryosser said...

i cannot believe that france is a net contributor

Patrick Barron said...

The French charge the British with the crime of desiring a larger free market but one without additional rules and obligations. If this is the charge, then there truly is a fundamental difference of opinion. Why does trading freely with more people in more countries require that the traders bail one another out of financial jams? As an American I desire to trade freely with my neighbor Mexico, for example, but I feel no obligation to bail Mexico out of its financial messes. This strikes at the heart of the matter. The UK can achieve everything it desires by leaving the EU and declaring itself a free trade nation. That means that the UK would NOT require reciprocal free trade agreements in order to allow goods from other countries to be brought into Britain duty free.

jon livesey said...

When europhiles trot out their usual fear-mongering about the UK and EU, they always say the same thing, that if the UK leaves the EU it will lose on trade.

In other words, without noticing, they concede the same point skeptics make, which is that the EU usefulness to the UK lies in trade, and not much else.

And in truth, if you divide the aspects of the EU into trade and “everything else”, the everything else solves problems the UK doesn’t have.

The UK doesn’t ask the EU to pay its debts. It doesn’t ask the EU to defend it. It doesn’t need the EU to subsidize its industry or agriculture. It doesn’t need EU guidance to create a justice system, a police system, or a functioning democracy. It doesn’t need the EU to help it found universities or build schools. It doesn’t need EU expertise to help it create a national a Health Service. It doesn’t need EU supervision of its budget. It doesn’t need to be locked into EU structures in case it launches a war of aggression against its neighbours.

This is why, in addition to being a net contributor to EU funds to the tune of hundreds of billions over the years, it is actually a unique contributor, since among EU members, the UK has received the least benefit from the EU, and expects to receive minimal benefits in the future. Except for trade.

The British taxpayer is well aware that EU pressure for the UK to remain a member is about nothing but money. The EU isn’t thinking about the interests of the UK, but about the tax money they can get out of the UK. Without the UK the redundant extra level of Government the EU represents becomes much more expensive for France, Germany and the others.

All the well-worn cliches about “obligations”, “cooperation”, “solidarity” and so on are just code words for one thing. British money.

Anonymous said...

So the French think we are holding them back to they? Well, perhaps we are holding them back from sliding down further into the money pit of the EU. The whole thing is a complete bureaucratic nightmare, and just a moneymaking scam for failed MPs (Neil Kinnock and his family)
It is complete and utter shambles and the sooner we get out the better. I think the headline should actually read: Long Live the UK without Europe!

Anonymous said...

Mr Vittori regrets that there is no means of getting rid of the UK. He should have read Art 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (which admittedly was rejected by his fellow countrymen on its first draught). There is formalises the removal procedure in some detail. Mr Cameron also failed to notice this clause which he could invoke if the British people decide they do not like his EU reform package.


PS 72% of the French want the UK to leave according to a Eurostat Poll published in the Figaro 25/1/13

Denis Cooper said...

Anonymous -

Article 50 TEU is on the VOLUNTARY withdrawal of a member state from the EU, not its enforced expulsion, and indeed there is no EU treaty provision which permits the expulsion of a member state.

So if French politicians want us out of the EU they must do much more to make us want to leave.

Rik said...

What Cameron needs is a lot of (not moronic) discussions in countries like the Germany and France. Basically likle this.

Politicians overthere are still for a big part (resp largely in France) of the opinion that they have been dealt all the good cards.
They simply have start to realise (may be not proclaim it in the open, realise is sufficient) that:
-UK out is pretty awful for the rest of the EU (for several reasons);
-The UK voter determines for a large part the outcome (and not like the rest of the EU mainly politicians).
-A lot of the argumentation they want to use will not go well with their own elctorate. At best for them it will be Janus-faced, at worst it will come back to hunt them. You simply donot state that voters are too stupid to decide while standing in a Hiro-Shima of your own making.

Anonymous said...

France as a business centre is totally uncompetitive and over-regulated. With so many levels of taxation and compliance requirements that most businesses are deterred at the start-up stage. It does not act on a level playing field to the UK - their publicly-owned utility firms own ours which were meant to be privatised - not owned by another nationalised concern. They pick and choose which EU directives suit them, yet complain if the UK even suggests that we do likewise. My mother told my sister " Take a Frenchman as a lover once, but don't take one as a partner". She had good judgment

Rayatcov said...

I can only quote Sir Humphrey to Mr Hacker:-
'Our partners in Europe were our Enemies for around 900 years'.

As for Mr Churchill:-
“Membership of the Common Market will forfeit our insular or commonwealth wide character.” — Winston Churchill, Cabinet Memorandum 29, dated November 1953.

“We are with Europe but not of it; we are linked but not compromised. We are associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.” — Winston Churchill, House of Commons on May 11, 1953.

David Barneby said...

Cameron is trying to do a high wire balancing act between banking and financial services , pro EU , and a large part of the conservative party and the British voters , who want OUT .

On Cameron's present offer , he may not get re-elected . I do not think the British people are going to buy " renegotiation after the 2015 election followed by an IN/OUT referendum "

Cameron needs to have a referendum before or simultaneously with the next general election . The British people will very likely vote OUT , no matter the EU propaganda . Britain needs to leave the EU completely and then negotiate a simple free trade agreement , such as the EU is seeking with Brazil , Argentina and aroud the world.

Edward Spalton said...


De Gaulle certainly got us right in the early Sixties but, by 1968 with the CAP firmly in place, the French needed us to pay for the CAP so the peasants would not be revolting.


I think that the words "solidarity" and "subsidiarity" are also used in Papal encyclicals. I remember Bernadr Connolly (author of "The Rotten Heart of Europe") berating an English Conservative audience for believng that
continental Christian Democrats were the same as British Conservatives. The difference, he said was "Vatican Social Teaching" and he, as a Roman Catholic understood that very well. Of course, infallibility is not claimed for encyclicals but they are highly influential.

Anonymous said...

They didn't say that when we rescued them from the fascists. Typical two-faced French.

Anonymous said...

if you think that is only the French view, you probably leave on island. All European countries see that UK does not have any desire to be part of united Europe. Fair enough. But you cannot be a ball and chain to us and in the same time to insist you want to be a part of it. As you rightly say you cannot have the cake and eat it. If you want the single market stay assured you still will be part of it like Norway and Switzerland. But leave us Europeans to do what we see fit for us. I sick of Cameron and his Tacherite rhetoric. And please do the referendum and stop moaning.


JonDanzig said...

When quoting Churchill the date and context are critical. Churchill did indeed say, 'If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea'. However, Churchill didn't say this in the 1950s, as is often erroneously claimed by eurosceptcs.

Churchill shouted this remark to the French leader, General Charles de Gaulle, in a raging row on the eve of the Normandy landings in 1944. Churchill had a ‘roller coaster’ relationship with de Gaulle and wanted to show loyalty to the US President, Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill angrily added, ‘Every time I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.’ Later, they made up over dinner and fine wine.

The other quote by Churchill is also often used by eurosceptics. 'We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed.’ Again, eurosceptcs often claim Churchill said this in the 1950s, but actually, he wrote it for an American newspaper article in 1930.

Contrary to current popular misconception, Churchill was not a eurosceptic. He was an ardent supporter of the European Economic Community and wanted Britain to join. See my article published this month, 'Winston Churchill: A founder of the European Union'