EM France: Brexit and companies : “Even if the UK isn’t a member of the European Union, it remains a European country”
On Tuesday 6 March 2018, the European Movement France organised a debate around the theme: “Brexit and companies: how can we preserve our business relationships?”
Marie de Saint-Chéron, Director of European and multilateral businesses at Safran and Marie Dancer, journalist in charge of European and French economic news at the French newspaper La Croix
This event was an opportunity to discuss the potential consequences of Brexit on business relationships and current negotiations. Participants included Loïc Armand, member of L’Oréal President’s staff, Marie de Saint-Chéron, Director of European and Multilateral Businesses at Safran, and Chris Hobley, Director for Market Access at the Department for Exiting the European Union. Marie Dancer, the journalist in charge of European and French economic news at the French newspaper La Croix, moderated the discussion.
A lose-lose negotiation
Marie de Saint-Cheron and Loïc Armand shared the same worries regarding the United Kingdom exiting the European Union. According to them, “it is a multiplier of risk”. The main worry for companies today is the dangerousness of a hard Brexit, that is to say a failure of negotiations, that would make the UK a third State with a strict application of the WTO rules. Loïc Armand warned that a lack of unity in a regulatory framework between the United Kingdom and the European Union would be “catastrophic for the 4,500 SMEs in the cosmetics sector”.
In depth: find the Reuters’ wire related to the event
Even if some expressed reservations about the date of December 31, 2020 beingthe end of the transition period, Chris Hobley was optimistic. He explained that, unlike usual negotiations, both sides are starting from a point of convergence : “We have to proceed with pragmatism and respect, we have to respect red lines, but it leaves a lot of space to find new solutions, better than the ones already negotiated with other third States”.
Companies’ role in the negotiations
L’Oréal and Safran, have teams dedicated to following the topic of Brexit , because big European and international companies need to “anticipate and keep an eye on” developments. These analyses are made available to negotiators even if, according to Marie de Saint-Chéron, companies should not play a political role.
Another look at Theresa May’s speech
On Friday March 2, Theresa May delivered a speech on future agreements to be negotiated. Speakers on the panel shared their feedback onher address. To Loïc Armand, it expresses a vision and the outline of a solution, and additionally displayed ambitions in order toget out of a difficult situation.
According to Chris Hobley, Theresa May wants a future relationship that is both close and ambitious, while respecting the referendum’s vote : “That is to regain control of laws and borders. She also recognises that with the exit of the single market and the Customs Union, there will inevitably be less access than before to European products and services.“
Marie de Saint-Chéron wrapped-up the discussion by reminding us that : “Even if the UK isn’t a member of the European Union anymore, it remains a European country”.