Emmanuel Macron: Expert discusses 'very low' approval rate
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As the Brexit trade negotiations reached their most critical stage in December, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France was paying particularly close attention to the talks. The En Marche leader said: “France will not accept a Brexit deal that does not respect our long term interests.” According to senior political sources, the hardline stance was taken because of Mr Macron’s domestic threats to his re-election, meaning he would have rather seen the talks fail than agree to a deal that could have tempted other EU states to leave the bloc.
Europe’s power to protect itself from major global rivals, pandemics, economic crises, migration and climate change will be a major electoral argument for Mr Macron as he gears up for his 2022 re-election bid, most likely against National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who he defeated in 2017.
A source said: “France’s stance is to show that Brexit cannot be a success.”
Mr Macron’s position was not unexpected or particularly controversial, as Paris has more than once expressed its fears of a “Brexit domino effect”.
According to Alain Minc, businessman and Mr Macron’s mentor, though, the French President’s attitude towards Britain has been mainly influenced by his disappointment of not being able to have the UK “in bed” with France and Germany.
He told The Standard in 2017: “He loves Britain! He speaks perfect English. He feels at home in London.”
This is why Brexit has been such an acute disappointment, he continued, while repeatedly
using the language of “the rejected lover”.
He added: “You [Britain] slammed the door in our face; you do not know what a shock it was for us.
“We wanted Europe to be a three-legged stool — France, Germany and the UK; now it will have just two legs.
“We wanted to have the UK in bed in a threesome.”
It is no secret that Mr Macron has been planning to manoeuvre himself as leader of Europe.
In November 2019, Mr Macron travelled to Beijing and met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
As the two leaders posed for pictures, the French head stood in front of the European flag at the People’s Palace next to the Chinese leader.
This was viewed as highly unusual as Mr Macron has no formal European Union mandate.
A POLITICO comment piece argued: “It appeared to show that, for China at least, the French President is viewed as the leader of Europe.”
Both leaders looked on as Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan and former EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan signed an EU-China agreement on geographic indications (GI), providing intellectual property protections for European gourmet food exports to China.
The latest sign of France’s growing importance in EU-China relations came earlier this year, when President Xi sealed a landmark investment pact with the bloc, witnessed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Macron.
Mr Macron took part in the ceremony at Mrs Merkel’s invitation, as her state was the holder of the EU Council presidency until the day after the China deal was signed.
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Mrs Merkel has been the main proponent of the investment agreement but it will be up to Mr Macron to help drive its implementation, with the deal expected to take effect in 2022 during France’s presidency of the EU Council.
Mikko Huotari, executive director of the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a Berlin-based think tank, said: “Macron will certainly use the opportunities offered by less UK involvement and the French presidency [of the EU Council] in 2022 to give Europe-China policy more of a French touch.”
Mr Macron’s plan to manoeuvre himself as leader of Europe, though, could ultimately cause not just his downfall but the end of the European project as a whole.
After the investment pact was signed, some member states immediately started complaining about the power grab by Germany and France.
One Brussels diplomat said: “There’s a lot of frustration among smaller countries about the way the Commission has been used to push through one of Merkel’s pet projects at the end of her term and the end of her legacy.
“Is this the way the EU will work post-Brexit?
“The Brits are just out and we’re already missing their open market-oriented approach.
“If Germany weighs in too much, smaller EU countries have nothing to say.”
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Baroness Gisela Stuart of Edgbaston, one of the most prominent eurosceptics during the Brexit referendum campaign, explained how too much power concentrated in the hands of a few could destroy the bloc.
She said: “I think that the tension as you look ahead, is one between countries who have a single currency and ones who don’t.
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“And while I do not expect other countries to leave, what I do expect is that in the years to come within the European Union, there will be a new structure.
“The euro countries will have to deepen more.
“Other countries like Poland and Hungary, who are not part of the euro, might want to look at different arrangements.
“You have to remember, if David Cameron had come back with a deal that said the EU accepts, not as a matter of exceptionalism and opt-out but as a matter of structure for the future, a different structure for euro countries and non-euro countries, people like me would have said ‘let’s give it another go’.”
She noted: “I think the next Commission will be very important to watch.
“One of the things about the next Commission and Parliament is that for the first time since the introduction of the euro, all the big offices are held by the big member states.
“This is unusual.
“I think there will be new tensions created by those who joined in 2004.”
When asked to analyse Mr Macron’s personality, Lord David Owen claimed he would be a prime candidate for “hubris syndrome” – a condition where the behaviour of politicians, business leaders, and other people in power, changes for the worse as they come to enjoy increasing power and influence.
The former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-leader said: “He is a candidate, indeed.
“One of his ministers in his government resigned having made a speech on television and used the word hubris.
“He is a very strong candidate, actually.”
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