President Macron: What the Results of the French Presidential Elections Mean for the UK and Europe


The Macron victory in the French Presidential election is an emphatic one; a clear leader in the first round, almost a 2:1 victor in the second round, and a near universal welcome (extreme right-wingers excepted).

 

How far this momentum can be extended to the National Assembly elections is yet to be seen. Political parties can be much more resilient in fighting the “ground war” of regional elections than the “air war” of a Presidential election. Which is something Labour may yet demonstrate on June 8th in the UK’s parliamentary elections.

 

Conventional wisdom in the UK is that, welcome as his election may be, Emmanuel Macron as President of France will harden the Brexit negotiations for the UK. While Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government is rattling the sabre that they would use to cut the Gordian Knot of the negotiations, by being prepared to exit without an agreement, the European Commission and Member States are taking up a harder-line stance, secure in the knowledge that “no deal” hits the UK proportionately much harder than it does most EU member states (with the exception of Ireland).

 

Macron’s election does, however, make a deal more likely. Both he and Theresa May will now look towards 2022 and their re-election situation. Neither will want a 2019 disorderly exit and a serious potential downturn in the UK and Eurozone economies immediately before having to once again face the voters.  Both should be comfortable with a two-year exit transition and time to agree the future relationship Treaty.

 

For the British, the reassertion of Franco-German leadership in Europe, with more assertive French political leadership allied to German economic power, makes absolutely clear the political consequence of Brexit (and will re-awaken all the reasons why the UK voted to be in the EU in the first place, to avoid just such a geo-political reorganisation).

 

In terms of the substance of the Article 50 agreement, the financial settlement was always critical and will now remain. And a deal on mutual tariff-free access for goods is still achievable. But the Macron Presidency is most likely to make harder for the UK its’ access to the Single Market in services, including some financial services. Emmanual Macron and his advisors will be less protectionist than his predecessor, but still highly attuned to the need for competitive advantage in a global economy, and therefore determined to create the ‘edge’ which the regulatory cohesion in the world’s largest market potentially gives to French-led service enterprises. They will not wish to hand this over to London and to US/UK service conglomerates easily.

 

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