The French economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, has warned that if the UK leaves the EU, it risks isolating itself as a tiny trading post on the edge of Europe, akin to the Channel island Guernsey.
Macron, who recently founded his own political movement and is tipped as a possible French presidential contender, told Le Monde: “If I was British, I would vote resolutely ‘remain’ because it’s in the UK’s interest. Leaving the EU would mean the ‘Guernseyfication’ of the UK, which would then be a little country on the world scale. It would isolate itself and become a trading post and arbitration place at Europe’s border.”
In the interview days before the UK’s referendum on whether to stay or leave the EU, Macron was asked what status Britain would have after a Brexit. He said that within a week of a vote to leave, the European council would collectively send “a very firm message and timetable” on the consequences of Brexit. “In the interests of the EU, we can’t leave any margin of ambiguity or let too much time go by,” he said.
“You’re either in or you’re out,. The day after an exit, there would be no more financial passport for British establishments. The European council should give the British an ultimatum on their intentions and the French president will be very clear in that respect.
“If the UK wants a commercial access treaty to the European market, the British must contribute to the European budget like the Norwegians and the Swiss do. If London doesn’t want that, then it must be a total exit.”
Macron has previously said he felt the British referendum marked the end of an era for a bloc that had lost its political direction and needed to rethink and reorganise.
He said the rest of the EU had a “double challenge” the day after any UK referendum result. First, it had to avoid the “contamination of Brexit” affecting other countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland or Hungary asking for their own special status. Then there had to be a new dynamic for an improved “positive project” for Europe so no doubt could set in among member states.
He said even if remain won, France would immediately launch initiatives. He said the special deal negotiated in February by David Cameron was “an exceptional status that should not be extended to others”.
Macron said: “To avoid the trap of Europe fragmenting on the economy, security and identity, we have to return to the original promises of the European project: peace, prosperity and freedom. We should have a real, adult, democratic debate about the Europe we want.”
Earlier, Macron told RTL radio that, although people should have a voice on the future of Europe, he felt the 23 June referendum was “dangerous” and that Britain had “taken the rest of the European Union hostage”.
But he said the referendum would mark a new phase of the EU defining its political and social purpose. “It’s the end of an ultra-liberal Europe that has lost its political direction … The European project cannot only be a system of abolishing rules.” He said that, at the heart of the British debate, was a drive to correct the effect of ultra-liberal economic policies “that they [the British] pushed us into”.
Macron, 38, an outspoken former banker, regularly polls higher than the unpopular French president, François Hollande. He is thought to harbour presidential ambitions but has not yet said whether or not he will run in next year’s presidential election.
In Le Monde, he condemned the murder of the British MP Jo Cox as a “crime against democratic debate”.
This article was written by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, for theguardian.com on Saturday 18th June 2016 09.30 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010