Is Macron’s vic­tory a blow for Brexit?

Bri­tain now faces a united Europe that is de­ter­mined to deny the coun­try the deal it wants.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Ja­cob Peters is a free­lance fi­nance writer and stock trader.

The 2017 French pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has been one of the strangest fought in France. The tra­di­tional par­ties were ousted from the fi­nal bal­lot pa­per by Em­manuel Macron, an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date push­ing pro­gres­sive cen­trist poli­cies and the far-right party, the Na­tional Front led by Marine Le Penn.

The elec­tion was seen as a fight not only for the keys to the Élysée Palace, but for the soul of Europe. The vic­tor was Em­manuel Macron, the youngest Pres­i­dent in the Repub­lic's his­tory and a de­voted proEuro­pean. The French elec­tion was un­usual for one more thing: Bri­tain was pay­ing close at­ten­tion.

The ques­tion on the lips of the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment was what ef­fect would a Macron vic­tory have on the up­com­ing Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions? The Tele­graph quoted the new French pres­i­dent as say­ing he will be “tough” in the ne­go­ti­a­tions. Macron fol­lows the view of European Union lead­ers Jean-Claude Juncker and Don­ald Tusk that Bri­tain should be worse off and have to pay a large exit bill be­fore trade talks can be­gin. The pres­i­dent has also sig­nalled that he would like to rene­go­ti­ate the Le Tou­quet agree­ment which al­lows the UK to have bor­der con­trols on the French side of the chan­nel.

Yet Macron's win may not be all bad news for Theresa May's Brexit strat­egy af­ter all. The BBC's diplo­matic correspondent James Lan­dale be­lieves that while Macron is cer­tainly pro-European he is not as Brexit ob­sessed as he has been por­trayed in the me­dia. Brexit is not Macron's top pri­or­ity com­pared to the eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues he faces in France. In terms of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions noth­ing has changed, France has not shifted its po­si­tion from when Theresa May be­came Prime Min­is­ter. Lan­dale ar­gues that if Le Pen had won, the chaos that Europe would have been plunged into would have made a deal harder rather than eas­ier. The sta­bil­ity in Europe pro­vided by Macron's win could make the EU less de­fen­sive. Brexit had been seen as the first step in the breakup of the EU, now it is clear that this is not the case. Bri­tain and Brexit is now the ex­cep­tion not the rule.

Bet­fair's po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Paul Kr­ish­na­murty, who has been cov­er­ing UK pol­i­tics in 2017, sug­gests that if Theresa May wins by a land­slide vic­tory that she will also have more room to ma­noeu­vre in the ne­go­ti­a­tions. Cur­rently, her ma­jor­ity of 17 seats leaves May vul­ner­a­ble to the far right wing of her party. If she achieves a ma­jor­ity of over 100 seats, her po­si­tion to ne­go­ti­ate and ac­cept cer­tain EU de­mands could en­sure that Brexit is not the stale­mate many are pre­dict­ing it to be.

Af­ter all the spec­u­la­tion over the knock-on ef­fect of Macron's vic­tory on Brexit, the end re­sult has been that noth­ing has changed. In­stead the lines in the sand are much clearer. Bri­tain now faces a united Europe that is de­ter­mined to deny the coun­try the deal it wants. Macron says he does not want to pun­ish Bri­tain, but he has also made it clear that Bri­tain will be worse off out­side the EU. Now the ball is in May's court to come up with a fea­si­ble op­tion that will sat­isfy all coun­tries.

From left: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May

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