Leave campaign 'totally unprepared' for consequences of Brexit, says surprised French finance minister

'The paradox is those who were the least prepared will now have to take responsibility'

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 30 June 2016 15:59 BST
Michel Sapin shocked at lack of Brexit planning

France’s finance minister has said the Leave camp appeared to be “totally unprepared for any of the consequences” of Brexit.

Michel Sapin said Britain would face “real difficulties” after it voted to leave the European Union and that he was “surprised” those campaigning for Brexit did not appear to have a plan following the referendum.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight, he said: “The Leave campaign suddenly discovered difficulties and problems.

“We are discovering them as well but for the UK of course it’s much more serious.

“That’s the paradox: those who were the least prepared will now have to take responsibility”.

He said “everything is on the table” when it came to negotiating Britain’s exit from the union - causing speculation that France may be willing to move on giving Britain access to the single market while allowing them to restrict freedom of movement.

“Britain will make proposals and we will negotiate all these aspects with a desire to come to an agreement. But we’re not there yet, until we have an official decision from the UK”, he explained.

“Britain won’t be in the same position as it was before. Things will change. Things have already changed.

“We return to zero. A clean state... Most of all I don’t want to appear hostile”.

He also noted many banks may mover operations from London to Paris depending on the terms of the trade deal - potentially costing thousands of jobs in the financial services industry.

He said: “We should prepare for this but not out of hostility”.

Mr Sapin also said Paris wanted to negotiate the trade deal “as quickly as possible”.

“Not because we want to punish the UK. I think Britain will encounter real difficulties and we don’t need to amplify them”, he said.

“But one of the problems, the most important today, is uncertainty."

Britain has come under mounting pressure from the EU to trigger Article 50, which will start formal negotiations for the country's exit.

Outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron has said the measure should be triggered by his successor, who will be appointed in September.

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