By Cecilia Wang
Emmanuel Macron, the socially liberal candidate for the French presidency, came to London on February 21st for a meeting with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. Running under the invigorating banner of “ En Marche!”, roughly translated as “Association for the Renewal of Politics,” the frontrunner describes his platform as “neither left nor right.” He vowed to fight against Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate of “Front National,” declaring: “In the current environment, if you are shy, you are dead.”
The candidate expressed optimism for his chances: “In the current environment, when extremes and anti-globalisation win elections, that is probably the best moment for France to decided to do the opposite.” Ignoring concerns of displeasing his host, Macron declared, outside 10 Downing Street, his intention of luring “banks, talents, researchers, academics” across the Channel after Brexit with “a series of initiatives.”
There were few signs that a Macron presidency would mean a friendly Elysee Palace for May’s government. Macron described the EU as “very attractive” and vowed to push for an unbreakable “Franco-German” position to defend the collective interests of the EU, presumably against potential British exploitation. He reiterated his “classical view” of EU membership, insisting that Britain will not be allowed to cherry pick parts of the agreement. Macron warned that the EU’s four sacred freedoms of goods, services, capital and people are indivisible and threatened with access to the single market if Britain fails to respect them. He added there could be no access to the market or financial passporting for the City of London without British financial contributions to the EU.
Macron became the most senior European politician to date to demand that the European Court must remain the supreme legal body overseeing any post-Brexit transition deal. The candidate also warned that the “Touquet agreement” covering Anglo-French cooperation over migrants at Calais would have to be rethought. These demands would most certainly alarm the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party. In an attempt to ameliorate the atmosphere, the presidential candidate acknowledged that Theresa May’s pledge to remain a good friend of Europe post-Brexit had improved the atmosphere, and that he seeks a settlement that “does not damage everything.”
Photograph: Thuy Trinh via Flickr.