French Finance Chief Says the Sooner the U.K. Leaves the EU the Better

William Horobin
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French Finance Chief Says the Sooner the U.K. Leaves the EU the Better

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France raised the pressure it’s exerting on the U.K. to swiftly exit the European Union with the country’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire urging against a second referendum to reverse Brexit.

Le Maire warned that France is still paying the political costs of circumventing a 2005 referendum vote against the EU’s Lisbon treaty. The Finance minister also wants the EU to move quickly with reforms to strengthen Europe beyond Brexit, and has recently published a book calling on Europe to reassert itself as a peaceful “empire.”

“The British people have decided to exit, now the British should exit,” Le Maire said at a conference organized by French paper Le Monde on Thursday. “And the sooner the better.”

France has stood out from other EU states recently by taking a tougher line with the U.K. in exit negotiations. At a summit last week in Brussels, President Emmanuel Macron said the EU would be left vulnerable if it granted a long extension to Brexit.

Still, Le Maire said it is regrettable the the U.K. has chosen to leave the EU because of the country’s cultural and strategic contribution to the bloc.

“For me it’s a sadness because I have a great deal of admiration and friendship for the British people,” Le Maire said.

Separately, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz urged U.K. lawmakers to step up efforts to break the Brexit deadlock and called on British political parties to work together to find a “bipartisan” solution.

“I think that it is necessary that the British parliament is taking a decision and I hope it will be very soon,” Scholz said in an interview with the BBC.

(Updates with German finance minister starting in sixth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Iain Rogers.

To contact the reporter on this story: William Horobin in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at, Zoe Schneeweiss, Craig Stirling

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