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'Many British politicians have been liars' on Brexit, French finance minister says

Key Points
  • Speaking to CNBC's Karen Tso at the Women's Forum in Paris on Thursday, Le Maire said that Brexit was a "historical mistake."
  • "I think many British politicians have been liars and lied to British people by explaining that it was simple to go out of the European Union without having strong negative consequences on the current daily life of the British people," he said.
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Brexit is a historic mistake, says French finance minister

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire slammed pro-Brexit politicians in the U.K., claiming they lied to the public in the run-up to the 2016 referendum.

Speaking to CNBC's Karen Tso at the Women's Forum in Paris on Thursday, Le Maire said that Brexit was a "historical mistake."

"I think many British politicians have been liars and lied to British people by explaining that it was simple to go out of the European Union without having strong negative consequences on the current daily life of the British people," he said.

"Now you are before the truth and the truth is that going out of the European Union, going out of the (EU's) single market, going out of one of the most important economic markets of the world is a mistake with very strong negative consequences," he added.

Although La Maire didn't name any politicians by name, many other officials have pointed the finger at prominent Brexiteers like former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove. Both spearheaded the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum and were severely lambasted for marketing drives that promoted how much cash the U.K.'s health service could be given under a Brexit scenario.

Both Johnson and Gove have previously denied they made false claims to the public and the former has directly defended the promises Vote Leave made on the health service in particular. A spokesperson for Johnson was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. 

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said she had obtained enough support from her senior ministers for a draft Brexit deal to move forward. But market watchers say there are doubts over whether the draft withdrawal agreement will get parliamentary approval in the country. 

In short, the draft withdrawal agreement, which runs to 585 pages, envisages the U.K. and EU agreeing a trade deal by the end of 2020, during a 21-month transition period after Brexit — although this can be extended if more time is needed.

"When you are lying to the people, there always comes a moment when you have to pay and explain to people that it wasn't a right choice. I hope in 15 years British people will realize that it is in their interest to go back to the European Union," La Maire added on Thursday morning. He also said the U.K. wanted to exit the bloc but still hold onto the benefits of the Union.

"If you want to go out, you go out, that's your sovereign decision, even if you regret it," he said.

"From a personal point of view, I do not see the possibility of going back to a second referendum. In 10 to 15 years there will be a new referendum when British people realize that it is in their interest to face the competition of the United States and to face the competition of China, to be together with Germany, with France, with Italy, with Belgium to face the challenges of the new world."

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