In a sign of how quickly European politics has moved, senior diplomats in the British embassy in Paris less than a decade ago held intense discussions about whether British officials could ever have a meeting with members of the French Front National. The party, then run by Jean-Marie Le Pen, was regarded as so off-limits as to be untouchable.
The embassy’s current occupants will doubtless be breathing a quiet sigh of relief that Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie’s estranged daughter, is unlikely to make up a 20-point deficit to win the second round of the presidential elections, but know the alternative – the election of the almost romantically pro-European Emmanuel Macron – might prove to be an equally big diplomatic headache.
Macron’s presidency may turn on his ability to push through domestic reforms, but in his campaign he has set down unpalatable markers for London on Brexit and for the future shape of Europe, especially the revival of the long stalled Franco-German motor.
Macron – when pressed mainly by British reporters – has said he will not countenance a deal that allows the UK to act as Europe’s offshore tax haven with access to the single market. Like his one-time patron, François Hollande, he is determined no other EU country should believe Brexit is worth emulating. A former banker, he will also be tempted to lure many of his UK-based supporters back to France by making Paris an effective rival to the City of London.
But Macron’s ability to press this case depends largely on the relationship he manages to strike with Berlin. He visited Germany twice during the campaign and in a 70-minute lecture delivered in English at Humboldt University in Berlin in January, he promised to end the mistrust and deadlock that had disfigured the Franco-German axis.
Some French economists see Macron’s grand plans for the reform of the eurozone, a common budget, a finance minister, European defence and a multi-speed Europe as the kind of boilerplate Euro-vacuity produced by the French foreign ministry for generations. They say it has been rejected repeatedly by German governments. “Most just yawn and wait for the next item of business,” said one European commission economist.
Source/More: The Guardian