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.
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