Macron’s Brexit speech 31st January 2020

On the eve of the United Kingdom’s departure from formal membership of the European Union, President Macron of France gave a televised address devoted to Brexit.

He explained that France respected the sovereign decision of the British people, and said that it was not for him to comment on the reasons for the vote. Having said that, he then proceeded to comment saying that the Referendum campaign was characterised by lies, exaggerations, over simplifications, and false promises. Mr Macron’s previous public statements make clear that such criticism is reserved for the Leave campaign, not Remain. It is also clear from previous declarations that Macron regards anyone who wishes to leave the EU as having Nazi sympathies [no exaggeration !]

The only exaggeration I know of made by the Leave camp was the assertion that the UK sent £350 million per week to the EU. In fact that figure was the Gross contribution determined by EU Budgetary arrangements but it takes no account of the various EU funds allocated back to the UK, nor the famous Rebate. In short, £350 million per week was never sent  because the liability was already offset.  However, the figure was the full liability, and the return of offsetting funds was a decision in the power the EU, not the UK.

The associated promise suggested by Leave was to invest that EU budget liability sum of £350 million a week in the NHS – that promise was kept by May and has been maintained by Johnson.

The primary promise, of course, was to restore sovereignty, and specifically control over our own laws, budgets and borders. We have yet to see that promise to Leave voters fulfilled and it still depends on the outcome of coming negotiations on the future relationship. 

Significantly, Mr Macron said that lying was a threat to democracy. Indeed it is, Mr Macron, indeed it is !

President Macron said that Brexit had been a shock – for the first time a country was leaving the EU, not joining. Lessons need to be learned he said. Indeed they do, but the conclusion Mr Macron drew in his speech was basically more EU, not less. The EU should not be made a scape goat [as he manifestly believes the British have done] because in point of fact the EU was the answer to a range of issues, such as ecology, migration, technology.

President Macron sees a need to establish a strong, politically integrated Europe to stand up to China and the United States of America. [No mention of Russia …] Yes, America is now regarded as a threat against which the EU must now prepare itself with its own security and military capabilities.

This is the same United States which sent tens of thousands of men to die in Europe to deliver us from Nazi Germany. The same America which rebuilt the European economy via the Marshall Plan after the Second World War. This is the same America which has borne the largest share of the NATO burden in money, resources and manpower to protect our western way of life. This is the same America which co-authored the Atlantic Charter in the Second World War to protect and promote the worldview and values of western civilisation in the post war world.

But now Europe must regard America in the same category as China – a  country with a newly minted Dictator and an incipient digital social credit system worthy of Orwell’s 1984. The country Hong Kongers so fear, they prefer the days of British colonial rule to reintegration with the mainland.

President Macron explicitly sees America in the same category –  a threat to resist. 

President Macron went on to assure us that while the EU certainly needed reform, he would be lying to us if he said the answer was either withdrawal or less EU rather than more. More and more EU, and less and less national democracy and sovereignty is the only way ahead, according to Mr Macron. Even though that led to Brexit.

He doesn’t get it, because he doesn’t want to.

President Macron pointed out that nothing concrete would change this year 2020 for any of us – French or British – although UK nationals could no longer stand/ vote in the coming French local elections. The UK has left the institutions, but the everyday impact will not otherwise be felt during the eleven months of transition to December 31st 2020.

The future relationship will be negotiated during 2020 and understandably the President said he will defend the interests “of our fishermen, of our farmers, of our industry, of our researchers, of our workers, of our students”. He wants a good relationship with the UK, but it will inevitably be different because the UK will now be outside, not inside the EU.

Overall, French fishermen rely for 30% of their turnover on fishing in British territorial waters, and for some this exceeds 50%. They regard this as their right and fail to see why they should lose out. Macron has the same attitude. Who cares about the state of the British fishing fleet or British rights in their own territorial waters. If this was the other way round, there would have been riots on the streets in France, I can assure you. But the British are expected to submit to it. 

The French and Spanish fishing fleets have prospered at direct cost to the British fleets which have suffered for decades now.

The President acknowledges the debt to the British in the war when De Gaulle was kept safe  in London –  June 2020 marks the 80th anniversary of De Gaulle’s broadcast to France to keep alive the hope of future liberation from Nazi Germany. France would never forget this, and looked forward to strong bilateral relations in defence, science and culture.

We cannot hide the fact that it is a sad day, he said. But this setback must inspire greater efforts to build a more powerful and effective Europe.

Vive l’amitié entre le Royaume-Uni et la France, vive l’Europe, vive la République et vive la France

the President concluded.

Ray Catlin

the full official text of the speech is on the Elysee Palace site at