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Marks & Spencer shortages in Paris ‘just the beginning’ of Brexit, says French trade minister

The empty shelves of British store Marks and Spencer's Paris branches are "just the beginning" of Brexit, said French trade minister Franck Riester, although he added that France was committed to trade with the UK.

Marks & Spencer shortages in Paris 'just the beginning' of Brexit, says French trade minister
Empty shelves in a Paris Marks and Spencer store. Photo: AFP

The 17 Marks & Spencer Food Hall stores in Paris have been running low of groceries since early January, with customers posting photographs for empty shelves for four weeks now.

When the shortages started, Marks & Spencer said it was working to solve the problem and hoped to have all their lines back on the shelves shortly. But four weeks in, the situation remained unchanged.

 

The much-loved UK store has several dozen Food Halls spread across the French capital and its suburbs, beloved of British residents of the city for supplying homely delicacies like Breakfast tea, crumpets, sandwiches and ready meals.

Disappointed shoppers paying visit to the shops in January have wondered whether Brexit will be the end of the French Marks & Spencer branches. M&S stores in Ireland have also reported problems.

 

 

But Riester, the Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, said he was “not so pessimistic” about the grocery retailer's future in France.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the Anglo American Press Association (AAPA) on Tuesday Morning, Riester told The Local that the problems Marks & Spencer was experiencing highlighted the difficulties companies were facing when adapting to the post-Brexit world.

“Obviously this is just the beginning (of Brexit). We are working on improving the process for foodstuff to be imported more easily,” Riester said, adding: “Foodstuff is quite difficult to deal with because it’s fresh.”

The European Union has strict external health checks in place on food imports to which the UK is now subject, rules that have radically changed the process of sending food across the border.

READ ALSO: Will I still be able to bring food from Britain to France after Brexit?

 

 

But Riester said the French government was determined to facilitate for companies to continue trade between France and the UK.

“I will add that the Covid crisis doesn’t simplify the life of companies. Brexit plus Covid crisis is a difficult situation,” he said, but “we want trade to be as simple as possible. We want the UK to export to us and we want to export to the UK.”

Speaking about Brexit more generally, he added: “Brexit is not a windfall, but for companies that want to enter the single European market with no red tape, it’s useful to be settled in the EU.

 
“We tell investors: Come to France. France is in the EU. There’s good investment opportunity here, good education, good opportunities here.
 
“(Brexit) was not France’s choice,” he said.
 
The Local has contacted Marks & Spencer for comment.
 

 

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Crumpets,celery hearts,Butter chicken and Wiltshire ham are what’s mostly missed here! But then I’m one of the many who was ineligible to vote in the referendum on Brexit, like thousands of others. “teething troubles” are going to be permanent in many walks of life. Ijust hope that M&S can survive the blows to their business here in France.

  2. I would say from the last comments he couldn’t care less and will not be trying to facilitate anything. M&S could consider setting up something with its suppliers actually in France say on the outskirts of Paris, to produce the sandwiches and most durables there. With that number of stores hopefully it will be viable.

  3. OMG can they get some adults in the room? M&S know they meet EU standards but all 3rd countries have strict importing regulations for food stuffs into the EU, which I would hope M&S were aware of before Brexit, but perhaps they thought they would be exempt? They have had 5 years to prepare for this. Whoever was in charge of M&S logistics into the EU post Brexit should be sacked. Even with all the uncertainty of the details, anyone with any semblance of sense would have known that this would be the scenario. Why would anyone at M&S have thought the rules for the US, China, Australia, New-Zealand, Canada and the rest of the world would not apply to them? Get a grip, get documented and get those sandwiches back on the shelves!!

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POLITICS

Biden hosts Macron for banquet as French president blasts ‘aggressive’ US subsidies

France's Emmanuel Macron was set to be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday for a state visit mixing sumptuous ceremonies with hard-edged talks on transatlantic trade and how to manage a rising China.

Biden hosts Macron for banquet as French president blasts 'aggressive' US subsidies

A military honor guard was due to be standing ready at the White House to welcome the French leader, accompanied by his wife, Brigitte, before the two presidents meet in the Oval Office for what are expected to be substantial discussions as they seek to defuse tensions over what Macron has described as “aggressive” subsidies for US manufacturers.

They were to give a joint press conference ahead of winding up the day with a lavish dinner featuring French favorites of wine and cheese — but in both cases American-made.

The two governments have emphasized their historic links — France is the United States’ oldest ally — as well as their close partnership in the Western alliance confronting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, Macron made clear, in unusually blunt language, that he is not just in Washington to discuss the easy parts of the relationship.

At a lunch with lawmakers and business leaders Wednesday, he lashed out at Biden’s signature policy called the Inflation Reduction Act, which is set to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries, with strong backing for US-based manufacturers.

The White House touts the IRA legislation as a groundbreaking effort to reignite US manufacturing and promote renewable technologies. European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector.

“This is super aggressive for our business people,” Macron said, warning that what he sees as unfair US practices will “kill” European jobs.

“The consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue but you will increase my problem. I’m sorry to be so straightforward,” Macron said.

The White House responded by insisting that the state visit is about the two presidents’ “warm relationship.”

US advances in the clean energy economy will help Europeans too, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. The IRA “presents significant opportunities for European firms as well as benefits to EU energy security. This is not a zero-sum game.”

In a speech later at the French embassy, Macron said the subsidies could become a real sticking point in US relations with Europe.

While voicing support for the environmental goals of the IRA, Macron said “these are choices that will split the West,” even as he agreed that ties remained solid for now.

On Wednesday evening, he and his wife joined Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for dinner in an Italian restaurant in Washington for a moment that was both private and “political,” according to an adviser to the Elysee, ahead of Thursday’s official events.

Also on Wednesday, Macron joined Vice President Kamala Harris at NASA headquarters in Washington to discuss cooperation in space — and to propose putting the first Frenchman on the Moon.

Menu and music

Macron’s two busy days in Washington will culminate Thursday with the first formal state dinner of Biden’s presidency — the grand tradition having been shelved due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Grammy-award-winning American musician Jon Batiste will perform at the banquet, which the White House said will kick off with butter-poached Maine lobster, paired with caviar, delicata squash raviolo and tarragon sauce.

The main course features beef and triple-cooked butter potatoes, before leading to the cheese course of award-winning US brands, and finally orange chiffon cake, roasted pears with citrus sauce and creme fraiche ice cream.

Washing all that down will be three different wines — all from US vineyards.

China high on agenda

Trade tensions, however, are only part of the uncomfortable flip side to the red carpet occasion.

Another gripe in Europe is the high cost of US liquid natural gas exports — which have surged to help compensate for canceled Russian deliveries.

There is also divergence on how to deal with the rise of superpower China. The question — with Washington pursuing a more hawkish tone and EU powers trying to find a middle ground — is unlikely to see much progress.

“Europe has since 2018 its own, unique strategy for relations with China,” tweeted French embassy spokesman Pascal Confavreux in Washington.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said China will be “very high on the agenda” this week but stressed that both countries share a broad approach.

“We believe that not only France, but every other member of the G7 — frankly, our NATO allies too — see the threats and challenges posed by China in the same way.”

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