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Brexit deal: ‘Positive’ for France as ‘UK loses’

Experts in France are cautiously optimistic about the impact the deal will have on France, but there are fears for border friction as the pandemic continues

France is watching to see how the new Brexit deal will affect trading with the UK, with the deal so far hailed as “positive” for the French economy, and the UK seen as “losing out” by the economy minister.

France has said that while the deal in itself is positive, as it removes some uncertainty and some tariff restrictions, it will still cause “new obstacles” in the middle of a serious health crisis, which “may be difficult to manage”

Imports and exports

The French economy ministry has said that France appears to emerge strongly from the deal, as in 2019, the UK was the sixth-biggest client for exports from France, and France was the UK’s seventh-biggest importer.

Annually, France exports €33.6 billion-worth of goods to the UK, and imports €21.2 billion-worth.

In mid-December, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said that Brexit would cost France just 0.1% of GDP, with or without a deal, and that whatever happened, “the big losers will be the British”.

The Banque de France estimated that without a deal, Brexit would have cost France 0.2% of GDP - the equivalent of €4 billion.

Lose-lose - win-win?

Brexit specialist Elvire Fabry, at independent Paris think tank Institut Jacques Delors, told news source BFMTV: “We can consider the deal as lose-lose, because in any case, Brexit is re-establishing borders, resistance, and friction in commercial trade, where it did not exist before.

“But, it is also win-win, because it minimises the [would-be] impact of a no-deal, and goes far beyond the issue of tariffs and quotas.”

Ms Fabry added that the deal would also allow production chains within the automotive and aeronautics sectors to continue without customs duties, which is considered to be a key win for these crucial industries in France.

But she said that there would likely be an increase in the amount and cost of checks on issues such as pet travel, veterinary requirements, and health products.


Fishing and commerce: ‘Satisfactory’

The agreement on fishing - one of the most hotly-debated issues - is “quite satisfactory” for France, said Sébastien Jean, director of international studies research institute le Centre d'études prospectives et d'informations internationales (CEPII).

Mr Jean also felt that the rules for fair competition were also “manageable” under the deal, and could be seen as a viable "starting point for a relationship that will be subject to permanent renegotiation".

Yet, Franck Riester, minister for external commerce, told the Agence France-Presse: “[The deal] is good news, but we must not forget that the UK is leaving the single market, and border controls for goods will be reintroduced from January 1.”

He warned that there would be no transition period for trading, “so this is something that we are going to have to apply from the beginning of January, in the context of a health crisis [which] risks being difficult to manage - at least initially.”

Mr Riester continued: “We will be very alert to the changes with the UK and are already doing everything we can to support our businesses and their development within the UK market.”

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