Macron and Brexit
Macron has now been inaugurated as the next president of France. Finally, a liberal internationalist triumphing over the poisonous wave of populism. Whilst many leaders breathed a sigh of relief, for Theresa May, that relief was probably short lived. With a stanch globalist at the heart of the EU project, she faces an even harder position in the Brexit negotiations. I want to examine what happens next.
Specifically, I want to look closer at two scenarios. Firstly how he’ll treat Britain in the Brexit negotiations, and secondly, what his policies (if successful) mean for Britain.
As a self-declared lover of the EU, Macron sees Brexit as an attack on his world vision. For him, it flies in the face of what he believes is best for France and the rest of Europe. That said, it’s unlikely he’ll want to punish Britain for leaving the EU. He’ll want a good deal for France first and foremost, yes, but that also means ensuring Brexit doesn’t crash and burn. After all, Britain is one of France’s biggest importers and buys nearly $40billion of its products. Moreover, it’s in his best interest to keep the EU project alive into 2022 when he’ll presumably stand for reelection.
Macron’s strong mandate, however, means Theresa May will feel under even more pressure to achieve an equally favourable position so lucky for us, we can expect more “strong and stable” rhetoric. His mandate from the French people - achieving 66% of the votes cast - also puts the EU negotiators in a better position because Macron symbolises a resuscitation of the EU project in an era of isolationism. It’s almost as if the EU negotiators have got the backing of the French people.
Having said that, there are other things on the agenda for the French president which are likely to take priority in the coming months. In particular, Macron is looking to strengthen relations with neighbouring Germany as well as working on the migrant crisis and EU security efforts. It’s no surprise, then, that his first foreign visit as French president will be to Germany.
What’s clear, though, is that Macron will prioritise a good deal for the EU over a comfortable negotiation for Britain.
The biggest challenge Macron faces now is the upcoming parliamentary elections. They’ll prove extremely pivotal for the next five years and only if he can secure support there - from own party members or sympathetic rivals - can he implement the policies he was elected on. Let’s assume he does get that backing. What then?
As France’s economy minister last year, Macron said how Brexit would reduce Britain to a fringe island on par with the low-tax Channel Islands. It therefore wouldn’t be surprising if Macron started trying to sell Paris as the European hub of banking now that London faces falling relevance.
Honestly though, such speculation isn’t worth much until he wins a parliamentary majority with which he can implement his policies. What’s certain though, is that Theresa May’s negotiations just got a whole lot harder.