Britain will be ‘big loser’ of Brexit while France will barely feel a scratch, claims finance minister

Britain will be the “big losers” from Brexit and its departure from the EU will only cost the French economy 0.1 per cent of GDP next year, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire claimed on Monday.

“The British will be the big losers from Brexit,” he told France Info radio. “The nation that will come out weaker from Brexit is Great Britain.”

“Brexit, to use an expression of the late John Le Carre is a political, economic and historical folly,” he went on.

“I regret that our British friends are paying the price of populism, lies and approximations of the (Leave) campaign,” he said in an oft-repeated French refrain. “They led the British to believe they could leave the EU but continue to have access to European Single Market, which is one of the richest in the world. Well no.”

He added: “We have explained to them – and the president (Emmanuel Macron) is right to be firm as is the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen – that you cannot have your cake and eat it.” 

“You can’t say, ‘I’m leaving, I’m independent but at the same time, I’m going to retain access to one of the richest markets in the world without respecting the environmental and social rules of this market’,” he said.

Mr Le Maire’s broadside came hours after the EU abandoned Sunday’s negotiating deadline, amid rising expectations that a deal could now be done and that Brexit trade talks could continue until the end of the year.

Michel Barnier, the EU Brexit negotiator, has told EU ambassadors a Brexit deal can be reached this week if the two sides find a compromise on fisheries.  

The UK, he said, had moved on the level playing field negotiations and that now the “architecture” of the system had to be agreed, including a possible “rebalancing mechanism”, which would redress unfair competition if the UK diverges too far from EU standards. 

But British negotiators had dug their heels in on fish and there had been no substantial movement there, he added.

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