The Brussels bloc lost one of its most powerful members on Friday night as the UK – which represents 15 percent of Europe’s GDP – officially bowed out of the European Union. “Brexit is a mistake. There’s no such thing as a good Brexit. It’s a bad decision that will hurt both the United Kingdom and Europe,” Mlle Loiseau, France’s former Europe minister, told France Inter radio on Friday.
“Everyone can make a mistake, especially when you’ve been lied to,” she said in a barely-veiled reference to claims Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his allies lied to voters during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed similar concerns about Brexit on Sunday, branding the divorce as a “waste” of time and energy that was “based on quite a lot of false information”.
M Le Drian also warned London that Brussels would not tolerate unfair economic competition.
“If Great Britain wants to establish outside of the European Union a sort of ‘Singapore-on-Thames,’ we will not agree because one must respect EU rules in order to have access to its single market,” M Le Drian said in a joint interview with broadcasters LCI and RTL and Le Figaro.
A “Singapore-on-Thames” scenario – a highly deregulated British financial sector much like the city-state – is one backed by many Brexiteers.
M Le Drian also warned France would remain “extremely vigilant” in future negotiations on fisheries with the UK.
Regaining control of Britain’s waters was a totem for Brexit campaigners.
But the European Commission has repeatedly warned there would be no free trade agreement without a fair fisheries accord.
Britain finally broke off from the EU on Friday evening, with Mr Johnson hailing the “dawn of a new era” for the country.
“For many people, this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come,” Mr Johnson said.
But the bloc’s most influential leaders, namely Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron, cast Brexit as a sad moment that marks a turning point for Europe.
While European leaders have repeatedly warned the UK that leaving would be worse than staying, the divorce also badly diminishes the EU. The bloc has lost 15 percent of its economy, its biggest military spender and the world’s leading financial hub, London.
Mr Johnson now has 11 months to strike a broad free trade agreement with the EU, the world’s biggest trading bloc.
The EU says it will not seal a trade pact with a large, economically powerful neighbour without solid provisions to guarantee fair competition. Some in Brussels fear Mr Johnson could try to undercut EU businesses by loosening regulatory standards, something he has promised not to do.
Mr Johnson’s aim is a trade deal allowing for tariff- and quota-free trade in goods, similar to the terms the bloc now has in place with Canada.