French Presidential Contender Macron Backs Tough Stand on Brexit

Given what a wild ride the French presidential campaign has been, it’s premature even only a couple of months from the vote to put too many chips on any horse. However, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out in a new column, Emmanuel Macron is taking a hard line on Brexit. It’s not clear that Macron will make it to the second round to face off against Marine Le Pen. Fillon took a hit due to scandals involving potentially illegal government payments to his wife and son. But Macron’s own goal has put Fillion back ahead of him. From Bloomberg:

Republican candidate Francois Fillon is back on track to qualify for the run-off in France’s presidential race, a poll showed on Tuesday, as a sweetened program of reforms and intensive campaigning on social media and across the country pay dividends.

Fillon leapfrogged independent front-runner Emmanuel Macron, gaining three percentage points to 21 percent, while Macron shed five points to 18.5 percent, according to the survey by Elabe for L’Express magazine….

Running for office for the first time in his career, Macron suffered his first significant misstep of the campaign last week, when he qualified French colonial rule in North Africa as a “crime against humanity.” Since then he’s taken the brunt of rivals’ attacks and was forced to apologize to French citizens who left Algeria when it gained independence in 1962.

Presumably polls next week will show how lasting the damage to Macron is. Marine Le Pen is continuing to gain, with the Elabe poll showing her getting 42% to 58% versus Fillion in a second round.

Nevertheless, Macron is a serious enough contender that he was able to secure a meeting with Theresa May in London. Evans-Pritchard quoted his “Franco-German” unity versus the UK in a Brexit negotiation. While this is accurate, I find it an odd way for Macron to have stated his views. The fact is that the EU, from the very day the Brexit vote was announced, has been unified in telling the UK what its major negotiating parameters are, and how they are consistent with both EU principles and existing agreements with other countries that are not in the EU, like Norway and Switzerland. As we’ve recounted long form, the UK continues to be astonishingly obtuse, with its politicians and press having convinced themselves that the British Isles are oh-so-special that the EU will be forced to relent.

In addition, even in the event of a Le Pen win, it is far from a given that she could deliver on her promise of having France depart the Eurozone. From the Spectator:

Consider the long-term consequences of the two-round voting system. Many British commentators — and indeed some in France — call periodically for a ‘French Thatcher’ to sweep away institutional barriers to economic dynamism….The British system not only can but regularly does give power to a united minority over a divided majority. Mrs Thatcher could carry out a peaceful revolution without ever having the clear support of a majority of voters. In a French-style system, she and her parliamentary supporters would inevitably have been defeated in second-round ballots by a combination of Labour and the Liberals: Jim Callaghan would have been triumphantly re-elected.

In short, precisely because of its turbulent political history, France has developed a series of barriers against radical change. A leading sociologist, Michel Crozier, described it in 1970 as a ‘société bloquée’ — a ‘stalemate society’. Of course, much in France does change: but the price of political stability is that certain fundamental rights and privileges remain untouched. Advantageous retirement rights and pensions. Certain influential professions. Farmers, sheltered by the Common Agricultural Policy. People in permanent employment, protected by laws penalising redundancy and limiting hours of work. The public sector — in French le service public, significantly in the singular — is the core of this system: schools, public hospitals, railways, universities, local government, the post office. All are arms of the state. Think of le service public as the NHS multiplied by five. The politics of its workforce, combining a real sense of public service with a jealous defence of rights and privileges, explains why France is the most anti-capitalist country in Europe….

A ‘French Thatcher’ — assuming that there is one, however diluted — faces not only the electoral barrier but a wider ideological polarisation than that of Britain in the 1980s. Then a large minority, even at times a majority, felt that something radical had to be done, and accepted that this included weakening the trade unions and increasing the freedom of the market. There is little sign that any such consensus exists in France, where both left and right are deeply suspicious of economic liberalism. Marine Le Pen thunders against free trade and ‘unfair’ competition. The very word ‘liberal’ has long been a political kiss of death: we shall see whether Macron is immune. So there is widespread dissatisfaction, but no accepted solution….

Nevertheless, few now rule out a Le Pen victory completely…If she did become president, France would face a genuine crisis, the worst for half a century. There would certainly be strikes and violent demonstrations by those who would see themselves as defending the republic against fascism. How she could form a viable government or win a majority in parliament is unclear. We would see a conflict between the Fifth Republic’s powerful president and its parliament under a constitutional system that one liberal critic has called dangerous even in the hands of a saint. The consequences for the euro, the EU, western security and Britain’s relations with one of its closest allies would be dire.

And from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

The 39-year old centrist candidate and former economy minister warned that the EU’s four sacred freedoms of goods, services, capital, and people are indivisible, insisting that Britain will not be allowed to cherry pick parts of the arrangement.

The European Court must remain the supreme legal body with jurisdiction over Britain under any post-Brexit transition deal, a demand likely to raise hackles in the Conservative Party and endanger any accord…

Outside Downing Street, asked if he wanted banks to move to France after Brexit, Macron responded: “I will have a series of initiatives to get talented people in research and lots of fields working here to come to France … I want banks, talents, researchers, academics and so on…

French expatriates at the event at Central Westminster Hall on Monday night may seen him as the antidote to the soak-the-rich policies of his former boss, Mr Hollande, whose 75 per cent tax on millionaires Mr Macron himself derided as turning France into “Cuba without the sun”. The measure drove many to move o the UK…

Mr Macron has raised several million euros in campaign funds from dinners and invitation-only meetings with expatriates in London and other capitals at which guests are invited to contribute as much as €7,500 (£6,400) to support his candidacy.

Both Bloomberg and Evans-Pritchard pointed out that Macron is particularly vulnerable to the possible entry of François Bayrou, the mayor of the southern city of Pau. He ran for President in 2007 and 2012 and last time got 9.1% in the first round. Although he’d take votes from all candidates, Macron would suffer the worst. Bayrou is set to announce whether he’s in or not at 4:30 PM today. Stay tuned.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Two points:

    Running for office for the first time in his career, Macron suffered his first significant misstep of the campaign last week, when he qualified French colonial rule in North Africa as a “crime against humanity.” Since then he’s taken the brunt of rivals’ attacks and was forced to apologize to French citizens who left Algeria when it gained independence in 1962

    As one of our French watching commentators here pointed out a couple of days ago this was probably less likely a ‘gaff’ by Macron, but a well calibrated ‘dog whistle’ to the left that deep down he is one of them – something straight out of the Obama playbook. Macron is playing a tricky game of getting centrists and economic right wingers to vote for him without losing support from the centre left. He may well be calculating that its worth annoying a few pied noir in order to keep his more left wing potential supporters on board.

    Second point – I think that yet another big error the UK is making is assuming that any Brexit deal will be agreed with the Germans and French. But as noted here many times, any deal must be signed off by all members. It is being credibly reported here in Ireland, based on briefings from Irish civil servants who have been travelling Europe, that the true hard line stance is coming from Eastern Europe. Countries like Poland, the Baltic States and the Czech Republic have always for historical reasons seen the UK as an ally, but have seen the Brexit vote as a huge betrayal, and the widespread reporting of racist incidents against east Europeans in England have hardened opinions.

    The Eastern European countries have far less trade with the UK so have much less to lose if it turns chaotic, but they may see themselves as potential winners if they take a very hard line. They might, for example, insist on their EU contributions being reduced in proportion to the UK’s exit payment – i.e. they could well simply demand more money from the UK to offset their contribution as the ‘price’ of support for any deal. Once again, the long term refusal of the UK to cultivate friends on the fringes of Europe could turn out to be very expensive.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, I should have underscored the point you made re the breadth of the antipathy to cutting the UK any slack, rather than giving it a handwave. While it is true that normally, when the French and Germans agree on something, the rest of the Eurzone/EU (as appropriate) goes along because the two have such different interests that if they concur, the rest figure the policy can’t be that bad, this is one where there was close to unified opposition to a Brexit. This was an almost reflex consensus, not something arrived at by to-ing and fro-ing.

      1. Graeme Irvine

        There is no chance of the UK getting 5 EU presidents to agree a deal, let alone the rump-27 EU nations, anyone of which can block a deal, plus the Belgian Walloonatics, who also can block Belgium from agreeing any deal. The sooner both sides face up to reality the better. Niether London, nor Brussels, nor Berlin made any plan for Brexit since none of them expected the voters to vote to leave. Dodgy Dave Cameron was sent back from his European Farewell Tour with an empty envelope to sell to UK voters. In that hopeless cause he failed despite rolling out Obama, Abe, Tusk, Schulz, Hollande, and Carney in Project Fear. All have to live with the likelihood of a complete Brexit after two years along WTO lines.

        1. Tom

          I’m pretty confident that there will be no deal at all. Simply because 27 nations would only vote for a deal that suited all and therefore gave precious little to the 1. On the other hand why would the 1 ever bother signing up for such a deal. I believe there is some sort of notion that they can bully the UK into signing up for a deal that sees them right where they are now (rules, fees etc) but with no voice. The UK will not sign such a deal, hence no deal will be the prevailing option.

    2. vlade

      “Once again, the long term refusal of the UK to cultivate friends on the fringes of Europe could turn out to be very expensive.”

      This. Way before the Brexit referendum I was saying how does the UK expect to get a better deal leaving the EU, which requires some very skilled diplomacy and alliance building, when it singularly failed to build an alliance within EU. Which would have, IMO, allowed it to get quite a few points it wanted within EU, as most of the countries north of Alps are not keen at all on EU to have much political clout but want to see it as primarily an economic bloc (which would have worked well for the UK).

      The main problem I see now is that it’s very likely the UK will crash out of the EU, as the talks are getting more and more acrimonious even before A50 invocation. And, of course, it’s impossible that the Tories/UKIP (not to mention Labour Brexiters) would admit its their fault, so the relationship with the EU sours even more.

      Were it early 20th century, I’d expect that Daily Mail would be calling for a war by 2019 to teach those EU fossils how the UK deals with those who displease it.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Vlade.

        I have observed this in person (in a previous life). A friend, also originating from the same former French and British colony, who works at the UK mission to the EU has also observed.

        I am in Paris this week and next and picking up anecdotal evidence that MLP is doing better than polled and may do better, not necessarily win, in the second round than expected.

        When I saw Macron at the races with the family who controlled his former employer, he seemed bored when having to walk around the parade ring with the brothers and look at their horses.

        See you soon. One looks forward to meeting you.

      2. Colonel Smithers

        I forgot to add that decades after withdrawal from the colonies and numerous economic and political disasters have not diminished the imperialist arrogance of so many Brits, right wingers and many so-called liberals (really neo-liberals). The UK’s perpetual falling back on the special relationship, a one-sided arrangement, is not healthy for either country.

        Pas grande chose a faire au bureau aujourd’hui :-).

        1. Tom

          Hi Colonel,

          Yes, we Brits are a bit arrogant but the fact, denied by many, is that we punch way above our weight (and we know it). It may be an accident of history, but it is where we are today. We come from a cold and pretty small island, but everyone in the world knows who we are, and a large portion want to come and live here.

          I presume L’ancienne Isle de france is the island now known as the Repulic of Mauritius? 5% of Mauritians live in the UK last time I checked and probably all Mauritians know of the UK and where it is. Do all Brits know where Mauritius is? No.

          I don’t mean at all to insult by that comment, but the fact that the whole world is dissecting Brexit is a reflection of the importance of the UK, the otherwise poxy island only good for having invented the sandwich. The UK sets the standard for a well governed country.

          1. Fulvio

            I suppose in the ruthless, inhumane sweepstakes, the British success at home and abroad must be regarded as a contender for some kind of a prize. Put another way, one might ask what kind of a people were the land owners who drove peasants off the common land into the satanic mills of Manchester, etc to endure a kind of poverty never seen anywhere in the world before? And, put another, what kind of a people put up with such sadists? So, bit arrogant, bit proud of sado-empire and all that. You betcha!

          2. uncle tungsten

            Yes Tom, Before Thatcher ungoverned it and then Blair untruthed it.Pardon me for being cynical but I am pretty certain that the UK is irrelevant.

            1. Tom

              We’ll see just how irrelevant when that 11bn is no longer put into the EU budget – they’re already panicking about what it means in terms of whether the Franco-German axis gets to pay more or the Eastern Europeans get less.

    3. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, PK.

      I am surprised that the opportunist Macron did not mention the Code Noir or may be that is too much of a sore point. Those who originate from former colonies, as I do, are often staggered by the hypocrisy of the metropolitains.

      1. Jeff

        A bit OT, but the best illustration of colonialism and hypocrisy is Bertrand Tavernier’s ‘coup de torchon’ (imdb). Don’t know whether it exists on YouTube or in English.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Jeff.

          My family is from l’ancienne Isle de France. English is my third language, after Creole and French. A distant relative won the Nobel prize for literature, a rare francophone winner.

        2. Colonel Smithers

          That hypocrisy extends to my ancestry, slave and slave owner and on both sides.

          A hundred years ago, my maternal great grandfather was kicked out of his planter family for marrying out. The family are among the top half dozen business families on the island and have expanded on the African mainland. They control hundreds of thousands of acres of land, mainly used for sugar cane. There are some rather elegant hotels in the portfolio, too.

          On dad’s side, the turfing out occurred in the mid-19th century, not long after slavery was abolished.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, ‘betrayal’ is the word most commonly used so far as I have heard. Eastern European countries have always seen the UK as a friend and ally (mostly on the basis of the UK not being Germany or France) and for the UK establishment to use east European migrants as a negotiating card is seen as explicitly racist by those countries. Obviously they want to protect the status of their citizens abroad, as any country does, but any attempt by the Conservatives to use them as a negotiating card would almost certainly backfire in a very serious way. Most of those countries are doing quite well economically so would not find accepting a chunk of their citizens back a particular hardship.

        1. Tom

          I never really understand why the Eastern European countries are so concerned about “protecting the status of their citizens abroad”. UK has taken a large portion of their young educated population and will probably over time adopt these people as nationals.

          How is that possibly in the interests of the the original countries, and why do these countries wish to encourage their brain drain?

          It’s quite extraordinary.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I don’t think there is any contradiction between protecting your citizens abroad – all countries do that, thats why consulates exist – and not wanting too much emigration. I don’t think there is any evidence that East European countries encourage emigration (except when it applies to unwanted minorities, like Russian speakers in Baltic States or Roma gypsies), but it is always a useful pressure valve when there is too much unemployment. It is a simple reality that people will move to more prosperous countries if they can when they are young, and they will move to warmer cheaper countries when they retire, if they can.

      2. Graeme Irvine

        Neither the UK nor the rump-EU should be thinking of expelling each other’s nationals after Brexit. Both are essentially Christian ethical parties, and reciprosity and doing right for very real people ought to be the driving principle.

    4. Eustache de Saint Pierre


      Does this not all put Ireland in an awkward position, in regard to it’s reported 1.2 billion a week exports to the UK ? I imagine much of that would be foodstuffs which the UK obviously needs.

      I am probably allowing my imagination to run away with me, but it all faintly reminds me of the attempts by the Axis powers during WW2, to defeat Britain by way of a blockade.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        It doesn’t put Ireland in a particularly awkward position at all, because most of Irelands exports are pretty much non-replaceable – i.e. food. The UK is a net importer of food in a major way so any attempt to put duties or restrict it would damage the UK far more than Ireland. There are very tight supply chains between Britain and Ireland as so many major food and retail companies are interlinked (its not like during the 1930’s ‘Anglo-Irish Trade War’ where the Irish economy was crippled by British duties on imports). The drop in sterling is a much more serious threat to Ireland than a new border and this is already having an impact (mostly on tourism). In any event, there are many pre-EU agreements between Ireland and the UK (in terms of movement and trade) which will be revered to through default.

        1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

          Thank you for clearing that up – according to a cousin of mine the border areas especially, are once again seeing flocks of shoppers crossing the border.

          The one thing that the ” Little Englander ” mentality can perhaps be thanked for is for keeping sterling, as it at least allows for some flexibility. I often wonder what state the UK would be in now if the over trillion bailout had been conducted under the Euro.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I think I should clarify what I said above – I don’t want to be dismissive of the issue as there is a real worry that Irish exports would be caught in a limbo if there was no agreement. There is an attempt by some business interests in Ireland to try to drum up scare stories to try to get the EU to focus on the Irish boundary issue. But I do feel (and I think privately most businesses agree), that the likely impact would simply be that the British would turn a blind eye to agricultural imports from Ireland whatever the rules, simply because the alternative would be to have supermarkets run out of food. But there are potential knock-on impacts, especially for products made from dairy from both north and south Ireland (for exports to Asia, for example, which may no longer be covered by bilateral agreements if some of the milk comes from the UK).

            Cross border shopping is a major local issue along the border. The border areas as strewn with petrol stations and shops which boom and bust in line with currency fluctuations. For a few years, it was UKers shopping in the republic, now its vice versa. But obviously if there was a border barrier the Irish government could (as it did in the 1980’s), simply force people to account for everything in their car as they come over.

            1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

              Hmmm…..yes my cousin who lives in South Armagh talked about the border, which according to him would be a nightmare to police & would leak like a sieve.
              Probably very expensive too & apparently according to him – a substantial amount of illegal products such as washed diesel, imported Eastern European cigarettes & human beings are all part of the constant flow.

              Perhaps as around 70% in the North voted to remain, this might all eventually lead to a United Ireland.

              I imagine at least that nobody is talking about a wall.

              1. PlutoniumKun

                The border is impossible to control – it has no logic in topography and even in some cases runs right through houses – there are even a tiny number of ‘isolated’ enclaves. Some roads cross the border several times over the course of a few miles. Its possible to control large scale movements on the main roads, but not local smuggling.

                NI is in a very peculiar position in that it voted Remain, but the single most powerful politician – First Minister Arlene Foster – is an ardent Brexiteer. She is in deep political trouble now due to an unconnected scandal. All the other parties are unusually united in being Remainers. Ironically enough, it is her base of Protestant farmers and small businesspeople who are most likely to suffer from it.

                If – as is possible – the government of the Republic falls in the next few months, there is every likelihood that there could be a new government with Sinn Fein in it, which would mean they could achieve their strategy of being in government north and south. That would set the cat among the chickens politically as they would then push very hard for NI to achieve some sort of separate arrangement within the EU, maybe even with Scotland.

        2. Clive

          Illustrative of the legal and diplomatic quagmire the UK government is walking into vis-à-vis the Republic, the Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement gives a requirement to — in essence — take as much agricultural produce from the Republic as there is demand for (emphasis mine):

          The Government of Éire, recognising that it is the policy of the Government of the United Kingdom to promote the orderly marketing of agricultural products, declare their readiness to co-operate in any arrangements made or approved by that Government for this purpose, and the Government of the United Kingdom, for their part, will not seek to regulate the quantity of any such goods produced in Éire and imported into the United Kingdom unless it appears to them that the orderly marketing of such goods cannot otherwise be secured.

          Before any such regulation is put into force, there shall be consultation between the two Governments, and the Government of the United Kingdom undertake that, in determining the quantity of percentage share to be allotted to Éire, regard shall be had so far as practicable to the past position of Éire in the trade and to any special conditions which may have affected, or be affecting, the volume of Éire exports to the United Kingdom.

          The Government of Éire, when so requested by the Government of the United Kingdom, will furnish estimates of the quantities of any agricultural product likely to be exported from Éire to the United Kingdom in any period.

          This Article shall apply to fish and fishery products as it applies to agricultural products.

          Border controls and tariffs would certainly be considered an attempt to “… regulate the quantity … imported into the United Kingdom”. And there is an obligation “as far as practical” to not enter into any domestic UK regulation which degrades the Republic’s volumes of agricultural exports.

          And as PlutoniumKun says, agriculture supply chains are tightly bound anyway, especially for fresh produce. A milk processing plant in NI, for example, can hardly switch to imported milk from the mainland (i.e. refrigerated sea transportation) without impacting its cost base if it is currently supplied by tankers driving a few miles from the south.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Oh, thats interesting, I didn’t know that.

            The fly in the ointment might be that the Republic would not be able to accept dairy produce in return as Ireland is a major producer of dairy products (especially baby formula), and agreements in Asia are tied to all the milk being an EU certified product. Irish dairy producers would have no choice but to refuse to accept any dairy product from the north for fear of ‘contaminating’ the final product leading to trade issues with China.

  2. Colonel Smithers

    A majority of French migrants to the UK came before Hollande’s election in 2012. I remember attending a Sarko rally with French friends and colleagues in London in early 2007. The figures being talked about then were not so different to the figures bandied about now.

    There are not that many people affected by the 75%. Many are sportsmen as they are paid salaries. Dividends and profits from the sale of securities, property etc., i.e. the real wealth of the rich, are not taxed at these levels. One can always shelter such assets with an investment vehicle based in Luxembourg. A leading French socialist politician from Rouen, but who served / was parachuted as mayor of a small town in the Correze, does just that with his brother and father.

    France is going through a property boom, which to this UK resident observer seems odd and as if they don’t know anything about Blighty. This is making the wealthy wealthier.

  3. oho

    ‘There would certainly be strikes and violent demonstrations by those who would see themselves as defending the republic against fascism’

    Don’t Fillon and Macron want to gut French labour laws and government-owned industries?

    Not endorsing LePen. just pointing out that it’s a mess and the pro-0.5% candidates w/their economic policies have left a huge opening for someone like LePen to fill.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes. I think the assumption that in a run-off between Le Pen and Macron or Fillon the working class left will support Macron or Fillon in the way they reluctantly voted for Sarkozy over Le Pen senior is a very dubious one. Many may look at Le Pens policies and say she is more palatable even than Macron.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, PK.

        That is what I am picking up.

        It is felt that if Le Pen can’t win this time, another quinqennat, or two, of neo-liberal rule may be enough to propel her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, to the Elysee.

        On a related note, the BBC World Service is getting just as hysterical about Fillon and Le Pen as it is about Trump and Putin. One of the clowns presenting the show from about 3 – 6 am called Exxon a small provincial outfit when slating Tillerson’s credentials.

      2. Anonymous2

        I agree MLP will probably do better than expected. In Paris last month, I was struck by two comments. ‘Not everyone who will vote FN will admit it’ and ‘when people are unhappy they do stupid things’. Whether she will do well enough to win the second round, who knows ?

        But another troubling remark was that the FN have not really changed since MLP took over. All that has happened is a clever, cynical cosmetic makeover – they are still fascists in truth.

      3. David

        Agreed. The “Barrier to Fascism” approach may not work this time. French trades unions are now very weak, almost everything that is not nailed down has been privatized, and the Socialists have no mass movement base any more. I don’ know where these “strikes and demonstrations” would come from. I suppose the bobos of the 4th arrondissement could always pay their Malian cleaning ladies to riot.

  4. Gman

    The EU apparently helped a war torn Europe bury the hatchet, but clearly lots of people in the European family seem to remember exactly where they buried it or are currently fashioning shiny new ones.

    Human nature suggests it’s inevitable that the UK’s potential, but by no means guaranteed, ‘difficulty’ might well be turned into someone’s opportunity amongst the various jostling EU members scrapping for their piece of the (r?)UK’s post EU carcass, but let’s not flatter to deceive about their motivations or their over egged perceived grievances.

    What I suppose I find a little disappointing is the constant simplistic, one dimensional, hackneyed ‘deluded Little Englanders pining for long lost Empire’ shtick still be being peddled as if this somehow neatly defines and explains the entire Brexit phenomenon.

    Even those who assume they occupy some sort of unique position on the sunlit EU moral high ground (and they are legion) aren’t above to employing their own lazy sweeping racial stereotypes, venting their own petty vendettas or prejudices or even resorting to a bit of the old dog whistle politics themselves either it seems.

  5. pictboy3

    Is it possible the UK is playing for time to see what happens to the EU after the next round of elections? If you really did see a FN victory in France, I would think it would put the EU on course for an existential crisis, which can only help the Brits at this point. Or am I overestimating the Tory pols by an order of magnitude?

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      It was suggested, including by Fillon, to May that she delay invoking Article 50 until next year and allow the new French and German governments to settle. She was having none of it and could not even see that it would buy her time.

      In 2014 – 5, I worked with May’s Home Office / law and order department on an immigration matter relating to banking. I was given the impression that she can’t handle complexity and hard choices and sees everything in black and white, e.g. crime is bad, foreigners and immigrants are bad. The Home Office suited her and did not prove the banana skin that it has been for others, although the MSM does not report how useless she was as Home Secretary.

      As per one of my comments above, the former boss of a friend, the former UK ambassador to the EU, testified to parliamentarians this morning. The subtext of his testimony is that the UK has few, if any, cards to play with, not that the public or MSM are aware or care. The public is fed a diet of Trump outrages daily by click bait obsessed hacks.

      1. Anonymous2

        I think Murdoch plays a role here, along with the other press barons. The FCO were clearly arguing she should wait until after the French elections at least and she was talking of the need for ‘some control ‘ of migration. Then she went to see Murdoch in NYC and came back to the Tory party conference saying Article 50 by end of March and full control of borders. I read this as her taking her orders from her lord and master in NYC. I am

  6. pietro gori

    What a terrible place France is, where “certain fundamental rights and privileges remain untouched” according to the Spectator. You see, they have “advantageous retirement rights and pensions”, meaning pensioners won’t have to sleep under bridges, pick their dinner form dumpsters, and may have a chance to take a ride on an ambulance without flashing their credit card! Moreover, absurd as that may sound, they retain to this day such barbaric relics as “permanent employment, laws penalizing redundancy and limiting hours of work” (though here the Spectator is not quite up to date, after the passing of the loi travail)…

    The continued presence of those archaic privileges is so outrageous that the French people will not miss the chance to sweep either Macron or Fillon to power, beating back Vichy Le Pen and her demagogic promises to stand up for labor and get out of the German-dominated EU…

    1. Gman

      Continued EU membership is definitely one of the major ‘éléphants dans la chambre’ for the French.

      MLP, like Trump or even Fromage don’t necessarily accurately represent people’s shifting political views or a seismic shift to the Right, they just happen to be of the Right and the only politicians who seem to ‘get it’ at the moment. Their personal agendas are pretty much immaterial and that’s how bad things have got!

      In many cases people are voting for these people in spite of who they are and often what they represent, not because they actively agree with them. That should speak volumes to establishment politicians on all sides, but there’s none so deaf as those who won’t hear.

      Many Western erstwhile ‘social democracies’ are under threat because of the abject failure of the Left and its inability in ‘rosier’ times to win the arguments in the face of what seemed like overwhelming evidence that the good times really would never end. Whatever those diabolical neoliberal alchemists were doing it always seemed to be working.

      Well now those ‘good times’ clearly have for increasing numbers. The party’s over and it’s time to survey the damage with sober eyes. The mainstream Left lost its mojo decades ago (or did they sell it?) and the vacuum they left unsurprisingly had to be filled by someone, anyone vaguely plausible, perceived to be from ‘the outside’.

      1. Gman

        Are a increasing number of voters desperately clutching at straws? You bet. That’s what drowning people do.

        Increasing turnouts and political engagement after years of apparent voter apathy should tell those who are prepared to listen all they need to know.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        He’s proposing an “alliance” with Macron. A ministry, probably. He didn’t get much out of backing Hollande so we’ll see where that goes.

  7. David

    Well, he’s making two conditions, which apparently Macron has accepted. One is a law against corruption in public life, the other is proportional representation in the National Assembly, which is huge and would change the political landscape totally. I think he has calculated that he can manipulate Macron into doing what he would do if he were running, but of course these laws would still have to be passed by the parliament soon to be elected. All a bit unclear for the moment.

  8. hush / hush

    Why isn’t the Socialist candidate Hamon part of the conversation?

    It seems like a rehash of the Trump / Clinton / Sanders dynamic. I imagine both LePen and Fillion would be deeply unpalatable candidates to the majority of French people. LePen’s exceptional euroskepticism and Fillion’s radical neoliberal economic reforms should virtually disqualify them from any hope of winning the presidency. But then the candidate hailed as “frontrunner” is Macron — the candidate of the status quo. His position seems to be: I’ll be like Hollande but better. He, like Obama, avoids taking firm or clear policy positions and leans on personal charisma and fear of the “evil other” to fuel his candidacy.

    Meanwhile Harmon, the Sanders candidate among this crowd, goes overlooked. Harmon polls well. He wants to strengthen French institutions and protections that most actual, average voting French cherish: They like their reasonable work week; their universal healthcare; their strong labor laws; their “protected” farmers that supply a proud culinary tradition. I find Harmon’s proposal for a universal basic income paid for by a tax on automation to be really creative and very intriguing. Could he implement it? Would it work if he did? I don’t know. But I think it is more important that he is proposing a SOLUTION when the other candidates are mealy mouthed or want to take things away from French voters. Harmon is from Brittany. My brother lived there for years, it’s known as an independent, forward thinking region with a strong tech economy…

    To those more in the know: Does Harmon have a chance? Is he being sandbagged by the press and establishment the way Sanders was? Is this election a rehash of the dynamics that brought about Brexit and Trump? Or is there something different going on in France?

    1. Sputnik Sweetheart

      I’m not French so I don’t know everything that’s going on, but let me take a stab at this. The 2012 election was a close call between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, and one of the reasons that Francois Hollande won in the second round, was because the candidates (except for LePen) who didn’t make it past the first round urged their candidates to vote for Hollande or said that they would be voting for Hollande. This includes Francois Bayrou, Eva Joly (of the Green Party), and Jean-Luc Melenchon. On NC, people often call Melenchon egoistic, but in that case, he did what was right and helped Hollande win the presidency.

      Five years later, people are dissatisfied with the lack of change and the turns towards the worse (the state of emergency, the El-Khomri laws, the 49-3 (which Manuel Valls used six times)) and consider the Socialist Party as an ineffective and treacherous power. As a result, the left primary had far less voters than people from the right, and seems to have been poorly conducted as well. There are people who want a leftist party to win in this election, but others who are upset with the Socialist Party, and of course the European Question leans on the horizon. One of my friends who will be voting for Melenchon in the election admitted to me that even in the rare case that he won, the only way that he would be able to implement his policies fully without sabotage was if France left the EU. Another option would be if a pink tide swept the EU (as suggested in this Jacobin article: but I see that as unlikely because of the current fragmentation of the left).

      My personal impression of Hamon is that he is a well-intentioned person and has good ideas, but is also surrounded by Socialists, many of whom are neoliberal and want to maintain the status quo, using the idea of Marine LePen as a threat. His ideas of UBI and marijuana legalisation are more popular with Anglo-American types, and there’s not as much of a push for them in France. Some French are even suspicious of UBI as an excuse to erode the current benefits of the French welfare state by giving people money in exchange for less protections. As for marijuana legalization, it doesn’t seem to be on the top of the French list, and is demonized regularly by the media, so people who haven’t tried cannabis often have huge misconceptions of its effects. Medications with cannabis derivatives are sold in France, but can only be used as a last resort.

      The French left seems to really be dans la merde in this election. I personally like both Hamon and Melenchon and hope for unification because the way that Macron refuses to disclose his opinions (and still hasn’t released his position on budgetary issues!) suggests that if he gains office, he will most certainly ignore the wishes of the people and continue to erode the welfare state. However, the tensions between Hamon and Melenchon have been increasing for a long time now and neither want to give up their seat.

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