Macron posts ‘deeply sad’ letter to Brits after Brexit

President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the eve of Brexit and posted messages on his official online pages

French President Emmanuel Macron has written a letter to Britons on the occasion of Brexit seeking to give reassurance that France will still be home to the many British people in France.

The letter was released on the morning after Brexit, following up words he spoke in a Brexit day speech from the Elysée.

In the speech, which he also Facebooked an extract from, he said “I want to say to all the British living in France, sometimes for years and years, that tomorrow morning things will not change for them. They are at home in France today as they will be tomorrow”.

There would “unfortunately” be a few practical consequences such as not being able to stand in the local elections for “those who have not asked for French nationality”, he said.

However he said these consequences would be “very much reduced”, due to the Withdrawal Agreement.

Nothing practical would change from February 1, he said, due to the transition period, he added. “You will not wake up tomorrow with different rules for your daily life.”

In the negotiations ahead he hoped to build a partnership "as close and solid and lasting as possible", he said. However "it will not be the same as the relationship we have had for decades. One cannot be outside and inside at the same time".

The day after, the President posted a longer letter in English, addressed to his “dear British friends”, saying that although this was a “democratic choice France has always respected”, he felt “deeply sad at this departure”.

He wrote: “I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of French citizens in the UK and British citizens in France who are wondering about their rights and their future: I assure them that we will protect them.”

He said: “Dear British friends, you are leaving the European Union but you are not leaving Europe. Nor are you becoming detached from France or the friendship of its people. The Channel has never managed to separate our destinies; Brexit will not do so, either.”

He concluded: “At 11.00 p.m. last night we did not say “goodbye”, but an early “good morning’.”

‘Shock’ and acknowledgement

In the letter Macron called the move “a shock for Europeans”, and said that “the UK has been a central player in the European project”.

Yet, he added that the UK’s departure was a necessary shock, which called on the EU to “understand the reasons for it and learn lessons from it...let’s acknowledge this, the consequence of a Europe seen as not effective enough, not protective enough, distant from the realities of daily life.”

He said that France was not “driven by a desire for revenge or punishment”, despite some having seen France as having been “‘tough’ from the start of the Brexit negotiation”, and he said that he would continue to make “our continent strong”, because “the UK has no interest in a weak European Union”.

The President also revealed plans to build “a new chapter between our two countries”, and said that he would be coming to London in June this year, to award the city the Légion d’Honneur tribute, in celebration of then-President General de Gaulle’s June 18 Appeal, so “the French know what they owe the British”.

Mr Macron also published the letter in French and English on the official Elysée website.

Ode to Joy?

The letter comes as the European hymn, Ode to Joy, is revealed to have topped the list of digital downloads on music service Amazon Music in the UK.

The hymn, which is the fourth movement in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, also climbed to second place on Apple service iTunes, and rose to 30th on the national charts. The version recorded by Dutch violinist Andre Rieu was most-downloaded.

It came ahead of the rival song, 17 Million F*ck-Offs by comedian Dominic Frisby, referring to the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit in 2016. That song rose to second place on Amazon, and to number 43rd in the national charts.

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