We must waste no time following Brexit vote - President
European Union – British referendum/Euro Area – Statements by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, in his joint declaration with Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Mr Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy
Berlin, 27 June 2016
Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I’d like to thank Angela Merkel for her welcome today. Angela and I agreed – it was at Verdun during a particularly moving ceremony – to meet again before the European Council, and we also thought it was absolutely necessary to involve Matteo Renzi in these preparations and this meeting, because we’re the European Union’s three major countries – with the United Kingdom, of course, but the United Kingdom has taken a decision. It was a referendum that had already been announced a long time ago. The EU – and we worked on this together – had tried to find the right arrangements to ensure the British people could give an affirmative answer to the question they were asked, and we got the result. So withdrawal prevailed. We deeply regret this choice, even though it was shared by 52%, which means 48% wanted to remain, particularly many young people. We regret it because the UK is a friend, an ally and – geographically and historically – in Europe. But we must respect this decision. It’s our duty to a people who have spoken, a consultation which has taken place and a debate which was particularly long and which also occupied us, too, at the level of our European meetings.
But at this time we must show not only sadness but also responsibility, because we have a responsibility: namely, to waste no time. To waste no time either in dealing appropriately with the issue of the UK’s departure or in dealing with the issue of the new impetus we must give the new 27-strong European Union.
Why [must we] waste no time? Because nothing is worse than uncertainty. Uncertainty generates often irrational political behaviours. Uncertainty also generates financial behaviours which can also be irrational. The UK is already experiencing this, and it’s painful at both political and financial level. But there mustn’t be repercussions on Europe, because Europe is solid. Europe is strong and Europe is a project that must continue, even though changes must occur and priorities must be reaffirmed.
So wasting no time means – as Angela has said – ensuring that the notification by the British occurs as quickly as possible, that there are no preliminary negotiations before this notification, and that once it’s issued it is passed on to the European institutions, so we can have this negotiation phase under Article 50. It’s better for Europe as a whole to have this procedure and for it to happen as soon as possible.
We fully understand the political situation in the UK too, and there again we must show respect, but we must also expect a certain respect from the UK for what we are, namely the European Union.
In any case, we’ll retain strong relations with the UK, and we – particularly France – have defence agreements. We also have political, economic and trade relations together, which will remain.
We mustn’t waste any time, either, in giving new impetus to concrete priorities. This doesn’t mean rebuilding Europe. Europe is built, not rebuilt; it must be constructed, it doesn’t need reconstructing; it must go on being built, but by concentrating on the essential priorities and swiftly implementing concrete measures.
Angela mentioned the four priorities; Angela, Matteo and I completely agree on those priorities, we talked about them: security, border protection, the fight against terrorism, the ability to defend ourselves together, and it’s a very important aspect for protection, [and] what Europeans expect from Europe. Second priority: growth, employment, with support from investment, and especially when it comes to the digital sector, when it comes to the challenges of the energy transition, we’ve got a lot to do and we’ve got to do a lot better than what we’ve done so far, with another priority very much linked to the previous one: young people, and we must take concrete measures in the coming months so that young people have even more confidence in Europe, particularly for exchanges, mobility, training and employment.
Finally, there’s the Euro Area; we belong to the Euro Area, we know there are countries which aren’t in the Euro Area, we respect them too, but we need to carry out fiscal and social harmonization together in the Euro Area, and this is also one of our priorities.
And then there’s still this question: how can Europe be made to function more effectively? How can we make it faster, more flexible and clearer for people? This is also part of the discussions we’ll be having in the next few weeks.
Not wasting time means that in September, we’ll have – if the European Council accepts this timetable – work which will already be presentable.
There you are; as I’ve said, what matters is clarity, speed and unity. If we’re clear and quick, I have no doubt we will be united./.