France plans to exact stiff penalty for Brexit in order to deter more departures from the EU

Politico reports: France is not ready to let Britain get away from the European Union scot-free.

If the U.K. votes to leave on June 23, Paris will push to ensure that consequences are felt swiftly and severely to avoid emboldening anti-EU forces elsewhere in the bloc, senior EU diplomatic sources said.

France’s tough stance foreshadows major difficulties for London in the event of Brexit, as a core EU member tries to assert its influence in a reconfigured bloc and sway other countries against adopting an easygoing attitude toward Britain. Some of those countries, such as Germany, are more inclined to favor a softer approach.

The French push is focused on convincing the remaining EU countries to unwind all treaties and agreements binding the U.K. to the bloc quickly, so the divorce is sealed by withdrawing subsidies, re-evaluating trade relationships sector by sector, denying British supervisory bodies EU recognition in areas like financial services, and establishing new immigration rules, to name just a few levers, the sources said.

“If we say you are outside the EU but can keep all of the advantages, access to the single market without any solidarity, it’s a terrible message for the rest of the EU,” said a senior EU diplomat who asked not to be named due to the non-public nature of discussions. “[A painless Brexit] is impossible if we want to keep the rest of the EU present.”

The need to send a message is all the more pressing for the French political elite with the anti-EU National Front positioned to make a strong showing in the country’s 2017 presidential election. France would not be acting out of spite, officials said, and has no interest in setting off a tit-for-tat war of punitive measures.

But as a core EU member, sources said it had a responsibility to strengthen the bloc and deprive anti-EU parties — not just the FN but also the likes of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands — of a chance to use Britain as a shining example of what life can be after the European Union. [Continue reading…]

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