Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK

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Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK in speech to European Parliament - Shutterstock
Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK in speech to European Parliament - Shutterstock

Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the European Union to be “tough” with the UK and force it to stick to its Brexit commitments on the Northern Ireland protocol and fishing.

In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the French president also said that the EU must commit to "strategic rearmament” in the face of threats notably from Russia, with whom he called for "frank and demanding" talks.

The EU must beef up its defence to avoid “war" and become a "power in the future", he added.

In an address marking France’s six-month rotating presidency of the EU, Mr Macron said that Europe and the UK needed to “regain trust in one another” in the wake of tensions over Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement.

"We want to make certain that the agreements entered into are respected when it comes to the rights of our fishermen or the Northern Ireland protocol or vital discussions which have to be had in the future,” he told MEPs.

"Let's be clear, let’s be tough when we say that the conditions of agreements entered into have to be respected. That's the way to remain friends.”

Mr Macron also warned that migrants will continue risking their lives trying to reach Britain on small boats across the Channel from France unless London changes its migration policy.

He reiterated his view that Britain's migration system favours clandestine migration and does not allow for asylum seekers to seek legal ways into the country.

He told MEPs: "Ultimately we cannot solve this problem if the way in which migratory flows as seen from the British side doesn't change."

"Our British friends at the moment are trying to adopt an approach that prevailed at the start the 1980s whereby when you've got a level of acceptable economic illegal migration, you allow people to work without papers because it's helpful the economy. But that doesn't take on board the reality of migratory flows now.

"Secondly, there needs to be legal, stable routes to be able to migrate to the UK and this is the situation that we're confronted with. This is a dialogue that we need to pursue with the UK. It's a horrendous humanitarian situation but that's the reality."

Maros Sefcovic, EU negotiator and commission vice president, said that he had listened to the French president’s “wise words.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol and Withdrawal Agreement had to be respected he said if the UK and EU were to work together in the face of geopolitical threats such as Russia.

He said: “They are our neighbours, our allies, and I think all of us in this house would like to see them again as our strategic partners.

“For that to happen we need to rebuild the trust and trust has been built through respecting the agreements. The agreements which have recently signed and ratified.

“We...will show all the flexibility all the goodwill to make this happen, but there needs to be a good partner on the other side.”

Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK - BERTRAND GUAY /AFP
Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK - BERTRAND GUAY /AFP

The UK’s negotiator Liz Truss, who will meet Mr Sefcovic in Brussels next week, told him last week that the UK and EU should rebuild their relationship to tackle the challenges the West are facing.

The Northern Ireland Protocol created the Irish Sea border, which introduced checks on British goods imported to the province to ensure they meet EU standards.

Northern Ireland continues to follow some EU rules to prevent the need for a hard Irish border with EU member Ireland.

But the Government argues the checks on British goods are too onerous and have a chilling effect on trade and forcing supply chains to shift to EU suppliers.

Brussels has offered to cut many checks but responded angrily to British threats to trigger Article 16 of the treaty, which would unilaterally suspend parts of the protocol.

It has warned that such a move could trigger a trade war and even lead to the cancellation of the UK-EU trade deal.

Liz Truss replaced Lord Frost as the UK’s negotiator at Christmas after the UK dialled down rhetoric over Article 16 and softened its demands over the role of EU judges in Northern Ireland.

'EU must build their own collective security pact'

In his speech, Mr Macron also said Europeans needed to build their own collective security pact and re-arm themselves in the face of Russian military moves on the continent's doorstep.

"Security on our continent requires strategic rearmament," he added, saying that "frank and demanding" talks with Russia were also required.

"As Europeans, we need to collectively make our own demands and put ourselves in a position to enforce them," he said.

The EU was not involved in direct US talks with Moscow last week over Russia's decision to mass tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK - ANNA KUDRIAVTSEVA /REUTERS
Emmanuel Macron calls on the EU to be 'tough' on the UK - ANNA KUDRIAVTSEVA /REUTERS

The EU’s new "security framework" needed to be put forward "in the next few weeks”, he said.

"We need to build it between us, Europeans, share it with our allies in NATO, and propose it for negotiation to Russia," he told MEPs.

Mr Macron also said that the EU must resist Russian pressure to veto states such as Ukraine joining NATO.

Russia must continue to respect principles it signed up to 30 years ago rejecting the use of force or coercion, giving states "choices to accede to alliances or bodies that they wish to", the "inviolability of borders" and the "rejection of spheres of influence".

"We in Europe need to stand up for these inherent rights," he said.

The French president also said that Europe must “define our own security doctrine” and have “a proper European defence industry and seek strategic independence without which the Europe Union is meaningless, and won't even exist.”

To have “control over our own borders”, he pledged to reform the Schengen free movement area and beef up the continent’s external borders and an “inter-governmental rapid intervention force”.

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