There is growing concern about a no deal Brexit. Would it be a disaster?
It is clear that if we cannot reach agreement, it would be bad for all countries and all citizens of the European Union. And that would impoverish everyone. Today we have the opportunity to conclude a good treaty and that is important for 2 reasons. As protectionism develops, if the European Union, whose members have shared common values for decades, could not reach agreement, it would send a terrible signal for the rest of the world. In addition, our countries have strong relations that contribute to their growth. I was a few days ago near the Channel Tunnel in Dover: all these trucks arriving with products from all over France, and vice versa, illustrate the success of our trade relations. This tunnel is not just a border, it is also a physical link created to increase prosperity. The proposals of the Prime Minister’s white paper, which are courageous and bold, intend to prolong that.
Why are services excluded from the English proposal?
We recognise at this stage that leaving the EU means no longer having access to the single market as before. On the other hand, recreating a physical border for manufactured and agricultural products would be a mistake, particularly in Northern Ireland where the removal of borders has been part of the peace process. And elsewhere too. Imposing delays in the Channel ports would pose enormous logistical problems. I spoke with the leaders of PSA, owner of Vauxhall in the UK. The factory operates with a very sophisticated supply system. We can see that the stakes are not only financial.
What industrial strategy will Britain adopt after Brexit?
We will maintain what has made Britain so successful, an open and liberal economy based on international cooperation. We intend to be leaders in the industry of the future, especially artificial intelligence and digital, green growth, mobility and ageing. In these areas where we have skills that others would like to share, we will develop our know-how. For example, we are the world leader in offshore wind energy and very strong in medical research. It is frustrating that the subject of Brexit can obscure the fact we are experiencing an industrial and commercial revolution. In the automobile industry, the advances made over the last forty years will soon be seen as ancient history thanks to autonomous driving or electric cars. In all these areas, we could move forward with our European friends.
What are you expecting from the United States as they raise barriers?
We intend to maintain good business relationships with them and with our partners around the world. But we are very like-minded with the European Union on customs taxes. A trade war is bad for everyone.