In one of the most tightly fought, fractious and unpredictable races in the history of the Fifth Republic, the French electorate voted for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron to go head-to-head in the second round of the presidential election. The numbers: Le Pen – 21.5%, Macron – 23.7%. Their vote shares, highlighting France’s divisions, were similar, but their views and supporters are not.
Marine Le Pen is a firebrand, self-proclaimed nationalist who, in a similar fashion to Donald Trump, carries a France First message. And like Mr Trump, has been accused of stoking up racist sentiment.
As the leader of the Eurosceptic National Front, a party founded by her father, Le Pen openly supports Britain’s exit from the European Union. “Thank you for showing us the way out from this huge prison which is the EU for the people,” she said when interviewed by Nigel Farage.
President Le Pen, therefore, would be the best thing to happen to Britain at this crucial time, though Downing Street will never admit it. She would break the Franco-German axis and pave the way for a disintegrated European negotiating position, allowing Britain to weave through and expose each state’s individual weaknesses – particularly the Eastern states – to force concessions.
And by siding with Anglo-friendly countries such as Spain, which benefits a great deal from British tourism, Le Pen could pressure the Germans into striking an amicable divorce deal with Britain, or as Theresa May would probably call it, a good deal for Britain, with chocolate sprinkles in the form of special Single Market exemptions for the City of London and key industries.
But if French opinion polls are anything to go by – and they came within a one-point margin of error in the first round – it is Macron, not Le Pen, who’ll be the tenth President of the Fifth Republic.
Emmanuel Macron, nicknamed the French Tony Blair, is the epitome of Europhilism and an arch enemy of nationalists, representing everything the EU was set up to achieve. The pro-business, pro-competiton, pro-multicultarlism, globalist Davos boy is a product of the Union, and he knows it. Last week, he proudly waved the Union flag at his rally, saying it was “an honour” to do so.
While it would please the Liberal world older, for Britain, Macron’s presidency would make things a tad trickier. His Eurocentric politics would diminish the political risk looming over the EU, and the competitive economic policies he’s promoted would increase confidence in the Euro, something we got a taste of last night. Once it became clear that Macron had topped the poll in the first round, the Euro jumped to its highest level since mid-November. A Macron presidency ultimately means a stronger, more stable EU, against the interests of Downing Street.
With an evermore unified and emboldened force sitting at the other side of the negotiating table, British negotiators would find it harder to expose tensions between nation states, and the Brexit-sympathetic Eastern European countries would think twice before defying the official EU position. And even if they do, their demands for a peaceful deal with Britain would be overshadowed by the determination of France and Germany to maintain the Union at all costs.
President Macron and Chancellor Merkel would opt for a ‘politics before economics’ deal that hurts both Britain and the EU economically, but more importantly to them, would scare other countries from trying to do the same. Macron himself described Brexit as a “crime” in his election manifesto.
Facing the prospect an increasingly unified and Europhilic leadership and a stronger European economy, it’s hard to see how Theresa May and David Davis won’t be rooting for Marine Le Pen.