Brexit Day is "a historic alarm signal" for Europe to become simpler and more democratic, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday, hours before Britain’s official departure from the European Union.
He said nothing would change “in a practical way” in ties between France and the United Kingdom, but warned that “it will not be the same relationship,” adding: “British people have chosen to leave the European Union. They will … no longer have the same rights.”
In a televised address from the Elysee, Macron said Friday was “a sad day.”
“It is a historic alarm signal which must resound in each of our countries, be heard by all of Europe and make us think," he said.
Europe must be 'simpler' and 'more democratic'
Brexit happened “because we have too often made Europe a scapegoat for our own difficulties, because also we have not changed our Europe enough. More than ever, we need Europe, facing China or the United States to defend our interests.”
He said the remaining EU 27 nations must make Europe "more sovereign, more democratic, closer to our fellow citizens and therefore also simpler in its daily life and that we succeed in rebuilding a clearer European project.”
"It is a sad day, let us not hide it. But it is a day which must also lead us to proceed differently. To build, with even more determination a powerful, effective European Union.”
The 2016 Brexit referendum campaign — "made up of lies, exaggeration, simplifications” — illustrated “what lies can lead to in our democracies,” he said.
He spoke of the 11-month transition period in which mechanisms such as trade and border controls remain unchanged until December 31.
Relationship 'will not be the same'
"Tomorrow in a very practical way, nothing will change in our relations with the United Kingdom", Macron said.
"I want to say to all British people living in France, some of you for many years, that tomorrow morning things will not change for you. You are in France, at home. Today, and tomorrow."
He said he wanted a strong partnership with Britain but said Europe must remain united.
During the upcoming negotiations, "our interests, that is to say the interests of our fishermen, our farmers, our industrialists, our researchers, our workers, our students" will be retained, he said.
"It will not be the same as the relationship we have known for a few decades. One cannot be both inside and outside. The British people have chosen to leave the European Union. They will no longer have the same duties, so they will no longer have the same rights.”
In a follow-up letter addressed to "British friends " and released on Saturday, Macron wrote that the "British government wishes to move swiftly forward; we are ready for this."
"It is in our common interest to define as close and deep a partnership as possible in defence and security, and in police, judicial, environmental, scientific and cultural cooperation," he added.
He then stressed that although the UK is leaving the European Union, it is "not leaving Europe".
"As of 11.00 p.m. last night we did not say "goodbye", but an early "good morning"," he concluded.