Brexit would make Britain like Guernsey, says French minister

Leaving the European Union would make the UK as significant as Guernsey, France’s economy minister has said.

Emmanuel Macron told Le Monde newspaper that Britain would become “a little country on the world scale [that] would isolate itself… at Europe’s border”.

He said the EU should send “a very firm message” about the consequences of a British vote to leave the bloc.

Pro-Brexit campaigners say Britain would prosper outside the EU and develop new trading relationships.

‘Complicated’ choice

Mr Macron’s comments were published after remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who suggested Prime Minister David Cameron, who favours staying in the EU, may have called the referendum to “blackmail” or “scare” Europe.

The Russian leader would not say whether he wanted Britain to leave the EU and said voters faced a “complicated” choice.

The UK votes next Thursday in an in-out referendum.

In other developments:

  • The IMF has said Brexit could mean the UK misses out on up to 5.6% of GDP growth by 2019
  • Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, a former chief of defence staff, has switched sides to Leave, saying he is worried by the prospect of “a European army”
  • The Times newspaper has said it supports Remain
  • The Remain and Leave groups have suspended their campaigning until Sunday following MP Jo Cox’s death

Mr Macron told Le Monde: “Leaving the EU would mean the ‘Guernseyfication’ of the UK, which would then be a little country on the world scale. It would isolate itself and become a trading post and arbitration place at Europe’s border.”

And he said the European Council would have to deliver an ultimatum to the UK about its intentions and that France’s President Hollande would be very clear.

Trade and economy

The debate

  • About half of UK overseas trade is conducted with the EU
  • The EU single market allows the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers
  • Trade negotiations with other parts of the world are conducted by the EU, not individual member states


  • UK companies would be freed from the burden of EU regulation
  • Trade with EU countries would continue because we import more from them than we export to them
  • Britain would be able to negotiate its own trade deals with other countries


  • Brexit would cause an economic shock and growth would be slower
  • As a share of exports Britain is more dependent on the rest of the EU than they are on us
  • The UK would still have to apply EU rules to retain access to the single market

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“If the UK wants a treaty of commercial access to the European market, the British will have to contribute to the European budget like the Norwegians or the Swiss. If London doesn’t want that, then the exit will have to be total,” Mr Macron said.

‘New trade deals’

In other comments, made to French radio, Mr Macron said the British referendum marked the end of an era for the EU.

“I believe in Europe, but in its reorganisation,” he told RTL radio. “It’s the end of an ultra-liberal Europe that has lost its political direction. The European project cannot only be a system of abolishing rules.”

He said the debate in Britain was about correcting the effect of ultra-liberal policies “that they pushed us into”.

In the event of Brexit, Europe should “act fast to avoid other countries starting a similar process”, he said.

“There must be no question of Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, deciding they want the same status.”

The Leave campaign has previously said it would be in the EU’s interest to ensure trade with a post-Brexit UK continued freely, because Britain imported more from the bloc than it exported to it.

And it said new trade deals, tailored to British not EU priorities, would help create jobs and business opportunities.

Meanwhile, the IMF said Brexit was the “largest near-term risk” to the UK economy, in its annual report on the UK’s economic outlook.

It added that the net economic effects would probably be “negative and substantial”.

But campaign group Economists for Brexit said the consensus that a UK exit would be bad for the economy was “based on flawed EU-centric models”.

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