SANDHURST, England — Emmanuel Macron invited Theresa May to “be my guest” if she wants to maintain the access Britain’s financial services industry currently has to the EU single market after Brexit — but only if the U.K. adopts the Norway model.
Speaking at the close of an Anglo-French summit aimed at strengthening bilateral ties, the French president addressed the question of the U.K.’s future trading deal with the EU directly, portraying May’s choice as a simple one between a Norway- or a Canada-style relationship.
His comments, which reinforce the position signaled by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier before Christmas, could dampen U.K. hopes of securing the bespoke trading relationship that ministers have urged.
Brexit was not formally on the agenda at the summit, which was held at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, and both leaders in their remarks at a press conference rounding off the event reinforced the importance of bilateral ties between the two countries. They announced commitments on shared military operations and a new “Sandhurst Treaty” to address the migrant crisis at the French port of Calais — both trailed before the event.
But asked in the closing press conference about his stance, Macron gave a pointed assessment of the consequences of Brexit and May’s decision to leave the single market.
“I’m here neither to punish nor to reward … I want to make sure that the single market is preserved because that’s very much the heart of the EU,” Macron said, according to the summit translation.
“So the choice is on the British side, not on my side,” he added, saying there could be “differentiated” single market access.
“If you want access to the single market, including the financial services, be my guest but it means you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge the European jurisdiction,” he said. Macron gave his answers during the press conference in French but slipped into English to emphasize the phrase “be my guest.”
Briefly addressing the Brexit negotiation, May repeated her call for a “comprehensive free trade agreement” that would cover both goods and services, adding that the City of London would continue to be “a major global financial center” after Brexit; something that she said would be to both the U.K. and the EU’s advantage.
Macron said that he did not rule out financial services, or any other sector, being included in a final trade deal that was “closer to the situation of Canada,” but was explicit that the level of access would not match the U.K.’s existing levels as a member of the single market.
“I do not want to exclude any sector in the trade agreement to come … but it does not mean that access … will be equivalent to access as if you are a member of the single market,” he said, adding that there would be “no hypocrisy in this respect.” To do otherwise, he said, would “destroy” the single market and its “coherence.”