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.
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.
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.
“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.