Macron & Brexit: 6 quotes by the new French president on the UK & EU

Nathanael Williams

CommonSpace looks at the new French president’s views on Brexit and the UK “taking back control”

EMMANUEL MACRON at age 39 is the youngest French president to be elected in the Fifth republic and starts his tenure with dominant issues including French unemployment, the Franco-German relationship, social cohesion and the UK’s Brexit.

Macron was seen as the pro-European candidate in opposition to the far right Marine Le Pen of the Front National who wanted France to break relations with the EU and bring back the old currency of the franc.

The Liberal candidate who wants to liberalise the French economy by loosening labour laws and making the famous French 35-hour working week moe flexible has come out hard against Brexit calling some of the claims against the EU as “bullshit”. 

With other far right anti-establishment politicians in Austria and the Netherlands also failing, pro-EU citizens and politicians will be hopeful that the troubled EU project is not quite so threatened as previously thought.

The risk of Brexit breaking up the EU is less likely with Macron’s election. And a less vulnerable EU may feel less determined to make an example of Britain in the negotiations. 

Domestically, Macron will not have a National Assembly majority even if his new movement called En March wins seats in the upcoming elections. His new cabinet is likely to be made up of an odd mix of old Republicans and Socialists. In many ways, the decisions that will dominate Brexit and the UK and EU’s relationship may still rest with Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel with who Macron has his first state meeting.

We look at some of his statements about Brexit, the UK and the future negotiations with the European bloc. 

1). Britannia alone

“Do you think you will be in a situation to protect your steel industry tomorrow if you are alone as the UK economy facing the Chinese one? I do believe it’s much more efficient to be part of the EU.”

In a speech on economics and trade in April of last year, the former economic and labour minister warned the UK that any post-Brexit trade deals would still result in it paying towards the EU budget. The UK would be, in his view, in a weaker position to negotiate bilateral deals outside of the European bloc.

2). Trading places

“So for sure, you can renegotiate a trade arrangement, but this trade deal will be less favourable to the UK than being part of the club.

”I think that’s a big mistake. The best possible trade deal is the one you have and especially the one just renegotiated with the rest of the EU.”

Macron has given a hardline on any prospective trade agreements between the EU and UK. He has indicated that any deal would have to be inferior to the UK being inside the single market. 

3). BawJaws & Farage called out

“Boris Johnson enjoys giving flamboyant speeches but has no strategic vision; the turmoil he created the day after Brexit proves it.

“Nigel Farage and Mr Johnson are responsible for this crime: they sailed the ship into battle and jumped overboard at the moment of crisis.”

Macron has been most harsh against leading Brexiteers who during the campaign last summer he said during his Channel 4 interview with Michael Crick, “spoke bullshit”. He has been softer on Theresa May using diplomatic language to address her handling of the Brexit crisis.

5). Taking back control?

“Theresa May has handled it but what has been happening since then? On the geopolitical level as well as on the financial, realignment and submission to the US. What is going to happen is not ‘taking back control’: it’s servitude.”

The 39-year-old former banker has gone after May for her connections and wooing of Donald Trump in the White House. In traditional French fashion, he has questioned a relationship with the US president which he believes has threatened European values and unity. Trump for his part came out to mildly support his defeated opponent Le Pen.

6). Poaching UK talent

“I was very happy to see that some academics and researchers in the UK because of Brexit are considering coming to France to work.

“It will be part of my programme to be attractive for these kinds of people.”

With Deutsche Bank moving 400 members of its banking operations out of the UK due to Brexit, Macron is among a number of EU leaders looking to tempt more workers to Paris. Financial agents, creative industry businesses and young entrepreneurs are among his top targets to drawn from London when it leaves the single market with the UK.

Pictures courtesy of Lorie Shaull, Jose Canerio, Francais Mutalitie, United Nations & Number 10

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