The favourite for the French presidency will take a tough stance in the negotiations
Following last night’s results in the first round of the French Presidential election it is now almost certain that Emmanuel Macron, a former minister under President François Hollande and the founder of the En Marche movement will, in two weeks’ time, gain the keys to the Elysée Palace.
With the UK preparing to begin negotiations on leaving the European Union, his election is likely to prove a headache for Theresa May.
Speaking in January Macron declared on French Radio that having ‘lived in an equilibrium with Europe’, Britain is now becoming a ‘vassal state, meaning it is becoming the junior partner of the United States.’
In February, speaking in Downing Street after meeting with the Prime Minister, he made clear that the UK could not expect concessions during the Brexit talks if he is elected president. He made a point also of saying that he would want to encourage ‘banks, talents, researchers, academics and so on’ to move from Brexit Britain to France.
Speaking to Bloomberg last year meanwhile, Macron declared that he was ‘attached to a strict approach to Brexit’, noting that while he respected the referendum result last year, ‘the worst thing would be a sort of weak EU vis-a-vis the British.’
“I don’t want a tailor-made approach where the British have the best of two worlds. That will be too big an incentive for others to leave and kill the European idea, which is based on shared responsibilities.”
This then, in a nutshell, is the dilemma facing Theresa May. Yes, she can go on as much as she likes about using the General Election here as an opportunity to seek a mandate from the people for her Brexit objectives, especially a trade deal delivering the same benefits as currently enjoyed in the single market, but what about Macron’s mandate? He has made quite clear that the UK cannot be outside of the EU and enjoy the same benefits. In such a situation, whose mandate prevails?
Theresa’s May’s so called ‘Brexit mandate’ means nothing unless all other EU countries can get behind it. If they can’t, we will end up with a deal that had not been put to votes in the UK at all. In such a situation, the UK Parliament would have every right to reject on the grounds that it was not what the Conservatives had promised.
But it is not just Theresa May who should be worried about the results in France last night. So too should Jeremy Corbyn.
Having sought to portray himself as a populist left-wing firebrand, the sight of the left winger, Jean-Luc Mélenchon coming fourth and the socialist party candidate, Benoît Hamon coming fifth on less than seven per cent of the vote should be a signal that populist left wing mentality is not a vote winner.
Ultimately however, with Macron set for victory, perhaps the biggest lesson for parties in the UK is the rejections of the extremes in all parties in favour of a more moderate, centrist approach. Little wonder then that Lib Dem Leader, Tim Farron, is today so pleased.
Congrats Macron. We stand with you against Le Pen’s divisive politics. Time to turn the tide and stand up for openness, tolerance and unity
— Tim Farron (@timfarron) April 23, 2017
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot ForwardSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.