“Be my guest.” With these chilling words President Emmanuel Macron has spelt out as brutally as General De Gaulle did in 1963 that the UK either lives under the common laws of Europe or the UK goes its own separate way with no more automatic access for the 80 per cent of the British economy based on services – especially the big profit centres of the City.
Neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn have been able to find the words to express the core truth the French President spelt out yesterday that if the UK wants “access for financial services, by my guest – but it means you have to contribute to the budget and accept European jurisdiction.”
In January 1963 General de Gaulle also said that “England has asked to enter into the Common market but on the basis of its own conditions.” De Gaulle heaped praise on Britain, on Churchill, on the UK’s place in history but made clear that the then-Common Market had made difficult sacrifices to draw up a common rule book, a set of laws, that either had to be accepted by Britain or Britain would stay outside.
It took a further ten years before a British prime minister, Edward Heath, and a number of brave Labour MPs led by John Smith and other younger Labour MPs who voted against the cynical fence-sitting of their party leadership and voted to enter Europe.
De Gaulle, like Macron, insisted Britain would remain a partner of France on a bi-lateral basis, notably on defence and on major Anglo-French projects like Concorde which was then on the drawing board.
In British mythology de Gaulle’s veto or Non to Harold Macmillan’s 1962 bid to enter the EEC was an attack against “les Anglo-Saxons” but to read the full 1800 word statement there is an enormous respect even affection for Britain or l’Angleterre as the French call us.
But the General would not accept that Britain could live half-in and half-out, taking advantage of some rules and laws but refusing to abide by others.
60 years later de Gaulle’s successor, Emmanuel Macron, the 9th president under France’s 5th Republic, has again spelt out en clair that the claims by Theresa May, David Davis, and Jeremy Corbyn that Britain can keep access to the Single Market but not live by common laws that other countries accept is not tenable.
The burbling nonsense from David Davis that Britain could have a deal with the EU he calls “Canada, plus, plus, plus” – i.e., free trade in goods and special access for financial and other service sectors where the UK has a balance of trade surplus – were slapped down by Macron.
If Britain wanted a Canada-type deal “There should be no hypocrisy in this respect. It would not work and we would destroy the single market,” Macron said. De Gaulle could not have put it better.
But as after January 1963, there were many in London who refused to believe a French president means what he says. The reaction of the City of London Corporation’s policy chair Catherine McGuinness was to insist on “an ambitious free-trade agreement covering services as well as goods,” she told the BBC. When will City executives listen to the President of France and stop being an echo chamber for David Davis and Liam Fox?
Denis MacShane is a former Minister for Europe and is a Senior Advisor at Avisa Partners.