Britain Pushes for Trade, France Says Wait

Bruno Le Maire

As Britain attempts to soften Brexit's economic blow, its ministers are trying to reduce payments to the European Union. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Mair believes talks on future trade should be held off until Britain pays the EU back. In an ironic turn, Le Mair used the words of former Prime Minister Thatcher when he broached the topic, stating that the Europeans "want our money back."

Le Mair went on to compare the British maneuver to skipping a dinner check after eating half a meal. Such a thing, according to Le Mair is "not possible." He was referring to the cost of British initiatives that are now obsolete.

European Union estimates for the British pay-back run between 60 billion and 100 billion Euros. It has been reported that Prime Minister Theresa May offered 45 billion Euros. This amount was not verified by the British government.

Talks in Brussels continue as the "divorce" becomes continually complicated. Michel Bernier, one of the EU's Brexit negotiators, reinforced Le Mair's sentiment. The talks are making slow progress and it is far too soon to discuss future trade policies. Adding to Brexit's complexity is the effect it will have on the European economy and the power shifts Britain's absence will cause between EU nations. President Macron has worked to loosen labor laws and make France more appealing to international business. Along with labor, other laws and regulations are also being reinterpreted to favor international trade. The EU's Capital Markets Union is also poised to undergo changes as London's position as a financial center fades.

Le Mair's statement regarding British payments, and the tension between Britain and members of the EU, plays out against a backdrop of financial discussions between the French government's economic experts and international banking institutions. Le Mair and the French government have been working to loosen France's strict financial regulations. By doing so, international banks fleeing London might turn to Paris. It does not appear this is the case, however. Banks are looking across Europe, not at one region or country in particular.

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