Macron wins in France – so what?

Introduction

If Twitter is anything to go by, the EU elite in Brussels and their remoaner allies here in the UK are beside themselves with glee at Macron’s victory in Sunday’s French presidential election.  They see the win as somehow a validation of the status quo.and a blow to so-called populism.  They think that it strengthens the EU ahead of its negotiations with the UK over Brexit.

The reality is rather different.

Deep divisions

In first round of the presidential election,  nearly half of French voters backed anti-EU candidates.  In the final run off, nearly a third of voters spoiled their ballot papers or abstained altogether.  Another third voted for Marine Le Pen.   So whilst Macron undeniably scored an emphatic victory in the final poll, in truth, France remains seriously divided.

It also remains in the grip of a debilitating state of emergency in response to repeated terrorist attacks and its ailing economy is still crying out for meaningful reform.

Sclerotic economy

The bloated French state is far too big, consuming a staggering 57% of the country’s output.  Growth has been slow and unemployment has remained stubbonly high in comparison to the UK.  French labour laws and bureaucracy remain excessively onerous and a major obstacle to attracting inward investment and entrepreneurs.  High taxes have driven many French wealth-creators to up sticks.  The French instinct remains protectionist.

For as long as these features of the French economy remain unrefomed,  it is pure fantasy to suggest that large numbers of banks and multinationals will flock to set up home in France following Brexit.   Dream on Macron.

Previous French politicians have tried and failed miserably to introduce any tangible reforms aimed at addressing France’s myriad of problems.  How will Macron be any different?

No chance of reform

The new president has no party political apparatus behind him.  But even if he cobbles together a legislative programme, as soon as he tries to do anything to rationalise the state,  increase pension ages, tamper with the 35 hour working week or try to water down French employment protection, the ever powerful French trade unions will no doubt bring the country to a standstill.  They always do.

Moreover, in less than two years’ time, the UK will no longer be contributing to the EU budget and billions of Euros will either have to be cut from EU farm subsidies or else remaining Member States including France, will have to pay more to fill the gap.  If Mr Juncker and his cronies have their way and no deal is done with the UK by March 2019, then France’s huge multi-billion Euro trade surplus with the UK will also be at risk – threatening to lengthen dole queues in France still further.

Meanwhile, France remains trapped in the totally inflexible Euro monetary system controlled by Germany,  with no way to reform it for the better.

On top of its economic predicament, France still faces a particularly serious threat of Islamic terrorism and has thousands of dangerous jihadists among its population.  If, as Macron has threatened, he tears up the border arrangements with the UK, France will become even more of a magnet for mass immigration from Africa and the Middle East.

Should France join the EU Commission in trying to bully and punish the UK for Brexit, it will be doing so from a position of weakness not strength.

What next?

“France has succeeded” Mr Macron proclaimed in his vacuous victory speech.  No it hasn’t.  It hasn’t even started.

When the flag waving celebrations on the Champs Elysees have died down, it won’t be long before the usual strikes break out and the picket lines and barricades to go up very soon.

Macron?  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Time for the EU to grow up

Introduction

For the last few days, the EU has behaved increasingly like a spoilt adolescent whose parents have threatened to cut off its pocket money.   It’s hysterical demands for the UK to pay punitive reparations as the price for exercising its legal right to leave the “Union” are totally unreasonable.  The contrast with the moderate and temperate language of the UK’s article 50 notice letter could not be clearer.

Screaming at us that Brexit cannot be a success and that they will not talk to us unless we pay them €100 billion is utterly preposterous.  It also shows a complete recklessness to the interests of EU citizens and their livelihoods.    It really is time for the EU to grow up.

Bullies

Over the years we have become used to watching the EU bully and cajole smaller countries like Greece into submission.  Now, they are seeking to subject us to the same treatment.  The problem is that they seem to have forgotten that we are not a small, ruined country which owes them billions.  Rather, we are one of the EU’s largest paymasters. We are also a hugely important market for their exports.

In the circumstances, their ridiculous demands for us to pay ever larger sums after we’ve left, are symptomatic of an organisation that has lost touch with reality.  How ironic that the EU leadership and their puppet masters in Berlin should have described Theresa May and Britaian as being “in a different galaxy” or labouring under “illusions”.  The reverse is true.

Whether, ultimately, the heads of the EU’s Member States will rein in the Commission and initiate a more statesmanlike approach to negotiations remains to be seen.  But until we see evidence of some grown up behaviour by Barnier, Juncker and others in Brussels, the U.K. must clearly plan for a “no deal” Brexit in two years time. It seems fairly clear that right now it is inconceivable that an acceptable deal will be on offer.  The best course will be to walk away until the EU comes to its senses – if that is still possible. We must not sign up to a bad deal.  Nor must we compromise on allowing the CJEU any further jurisdiction over the UK.

Grown up behaviour?

Meanwhile, if there are any grown ups left in Brussels what they should of course be doing is urgently revisiting the EU’s financial plans for the period ahead and revising them to take account of the impending departure of the UK in March 2019.

In the world of business, if an event occurs that is bound to lead to a fall in revenues such as the loss of an important customer,  the business will revise its financial plans accordingly.  The EU should be no different.  Since from April 2019 onwards, it will no longer enjoy the net €10 billion + UK contribution to its budget, it must adjust for that new reality.

There are only three choices: either the EU cuts its spending or it asks its remaining Member States for more money. Or it employs a combination of both.

Incredibly,  there is no sign of the EU doing anything along these lines.  No doubt this is because the moment that it is suggested that other countries pay more or receive smaller handouts, the unity of the 27 will collapse in an instant.

The more desperate the EU is for our money to prevent that from happening, the stronger our negotiating hand becomes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The real lesson from the Juncker dinner

Remoaners: wrong as usual

As usual, the Remoaners have drawn completely the wrong conclusions from the disgraceful leaking of what allegedly happened when Theresa May met EU officials for dinner on 26 April.  One after the other, they have dutifully lined up to do the EU’s bidding and showing an astonishing gullibility,  have tweeted their EU-sponsored message of doom and despondency far and wide.  Juncker says our prime minister is “deluded”.  “Brexit cannot be a success”.  We’re doomed! Blah blah blah.

This stuff is straight from the Brussels Brexit playbook.

The spiteful storytelling about the dinner, the carefully choreographed leak and its convenient publication in a German newspaper are all part of a clumsy attempt to continue the theme of Project Fear.    The hope, no doubt, is that the UK will be cowed into submission in the Article 50 negotiations.  Or better still, from the EU’s perspective, persuaded to abandon Brexit altogether.   Such is the fantasy world of Jean Claude-Juncker and his cronies.

There is also a separate audience to whom all of this propaganda is addressed.  Beneath the phoney “unity” of the 27 Member States’ when they announced their negotiating guidelines,  lies a deep-rooted terror on the part of the EU establishment, that the UK may not be alone in deciding to cut its losses and head for the exit.  Austria, Holland and (probably soon) France, may all have elected mainstream governments, but the populist revolt is not over yet.  Italy remains the single biggest threat to the continuance of the EU in its present form when that country next goes to the polls.

Counter-productive

The idea that insulting the British Prime Minister is going to promote a successful negotiation with the UK is plainly ridiculous.   But whilst,  absurdly, there is still a willing audience for Junckers’ nonsense at the Guardian and among the usual remoaner twitterati, ultimately all that his sneering and obvious contempt for democracy will do is stiffen the determination of the sensible majority across the UK.   The more the EU behaves in this bullying and disrespectful fashion, the more difficult politically it will be for the UK government to be seen to make any concessions in the negotiations.

Moreover, far from diminishing Theresa May in the eyes of the electorate, Juncker and his cronies are simply bolstering her position.  They are showing a staggering ineptitude and lack of understanding of the British psyche.

What Juncker’s conduct shows us 

Contrary to the remoaners’ twitter bleating, the real lesson here is not that the UK’s position is weak and that Brexit is going to be a “catastrophe” (to quote one recent, particularly hysterical Guardian article).   No, the real lesson is that it is the EU who are weak.  They are so fearful that the UK will thrive once it escapes the shackles of its EU membership and that this may encourage others to follow suit, that they have resorted to these desperate tactics.

Meanwhile, the thin veneer of EU unity will soon break down.

In the aftermath of the referendum result last year, Juncker & Co faced criticism from Member States for their mishandling of the EU’s relations with the UK.   Many governments will be distinctly nervous at the prospect of allowing the same people to lead the negotiations again if they are going to behave in this fashion.  Any more stunts such as DinnerGate and the demands will come thick and fast for the Commission to be kept on a very short leash.   Elected politicians throughout the EU’s member states will be acutely conscious of  how millions of jobs (and votes) in their own countries depend upon a sensible and successful withdrawal agreement with the UK.

That being the case, the sooner they put some grown ups in charge in Brussels the better.