François Fillon was the surprise winner of the first round of the French Républicains party primaries on Sunday, and he wants a the UK to have a swift Brexit and the France–Britain border moved back to Kent.
The former French prime minister won 44.1% of the vote, far above the 28.6% received by his main opponent, Alain Juppé, who was until recently seen as the almost certain winner of the contest.
A second round now stands between Fillon and the presidential elections – which the Républicains are seen by many as being poised to win – but it may not all be good news for the UK.
“I find the current atmosphere in Europe loathsome,” Fillon told an audience of French voters in London back in February, adding that he was frustrated about “having to be subjected to the demands of our British friends”.
"[David] Cameron has opened Pandora’s box,” he said, adding: "We risk seeing Europe destroy itself at a time when we need it the most."
At a conference in Nancy in May, he doubled down by saying a vote for Brexit "would be really bad news" and "could feed the wave of populism already sweeping across Europe”.
In a radio interview after the Brexit vote, on 26 June, Fillon said: "This decision cannot lead to years of uncertainty, things need to happen quickly."
He was more precise in a speech to the French national assembly two days later, saying: "The divorce must be serene but it must be quick ... The 27 [other EU nations] must pressure the British and agree on a deadline, which cannot be after late September."
In the radio interview, Fillon warned that the EU should be acting "without being aggressive towards the UK, but without being complacent either".
This was echoed in his 28 June speech, where he repeated that there should be "no hostility; no complacency", and added that "the objectives are clear: the British are coming out, but the British aren’t necessarily becoming adversaries as a result".
He also said on 26 June that "the first decision the EU must take is to put aside all British civil servants working in the commissions and European administrations" and that "British MEPs can’t vote in the European parliament any more".
The presidential hopeful also wants the UK border to be moved back to Kent, saying on 26 June that French MP Xavier Bertrand was "right to demand the renegotiation" of the Touquet agreement, which allows British immigration officials the check passports and vehicles in Calais.
In his national assembly speech, Fillon also warned that there is "no reason" to let Britons keep their EU financial passport, which allows companies based anywhere in Europe to provide services across the EU.
He also called for Britain to no longer be able to "clear" or process transactions in euros – which it currently does because it is in the single market – when it leaves the EU.
He concluded: "You can’t leave the house, stop paying rent, but still stay under the roof and use the bedrooms and the cutlery."
Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Marie Le Conte at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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