Emmanuel Macron has a cynical plan to which, writes JONATHAN MILLER, there is only one answer
All hail Emmanuel Macron, the newly re-elected French President and self-proclaimed Emperor of the European Union, who this week proposed a radical overhaul of the continent’s political map.
In his Europe Day speech in Strasbourg on Monday, he grandly proposed a new “political community” which would give non-EU countries a closer relationship with the EU, but which would not be real membership.
An adult EU for France and Germany, and a light EU for aspirants (Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Ukraine, etc.) and has-beens (Great Britain).
And like those Japanese soldiers who fought long after the end of the Second World War, the Rémoaners quickly emerged from the jungle of their social media echo chambers to salute the benevolent wisdom of Mr. Macron.
Here he extended an olive branch to wayward Britain, offering a path back from the wilderness of Brexit to the loving embrace of Brussels.
“Macron calls for a new European community – and Britain could join it,” ran the breathless pro-EU headlines.
“I love this guy from Macron! Visionary and magnanimous,” one tweet said.
Let’s be clear: this “olive branch” is nothing. To quote a certain former British Prime Minister faced with EU demands for closer integration, our response to Macron’s apparent overtures should be: ‘No. No no.’
Emmanuel Macron has grandly proposed a new “political community” that would give non-EU countries a closer relationship with the EU
Because it has all the hallmarks of classic Macron mischief, disguising a cynical attempt to lay the groundwork for Britain’s future return to the EU through the back door.
For if the UK found itself governed by Labor (or a Labour-LibDem coalition), it is not too difficult to see how the “political cooperation” that Macron calls for in terms of “security… energy, transport , investment, infrastructure [and] the people’ movement could slip into re-entry in all but name.
As for the timing, it couldn’t be more ironic. Macron’s call for “reform” of the EU so that “democratic European nations that adhere to our values” can work better together is an apparent response to Russian aggression.
Yet it comes just as Brussels is once again clinging to hated Northern Ireland protocol, stoking a crisis in Stormont that threatens to destabilize peace in the province.
How can we take Macron’s proposal seriously?
First of all, its “new European political community” is totally undefined. Who will rule it?
Who will pay for his inevitable bureaucrats, lectures, statements and business class plane tickets? What powers would he have?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Macron pictured together ahead of a Group of Seven meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels in March
Macron gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the Conference on the Future of Europe and the release of his report with reform proposals on Tuesday
Indeed, such vagueness could be deliberate: a way of keeping European hopefuls that Macron doesn’t care much about in a second-class waiting room, where they can be expected to wait decades (even forever) to be admitted to the inner circle.
Of course, in the meantime, all these nations will have to align themselves with European law and comply with EU regulations – without any voting rights.
Nothing is clear but, again, maybe it was never intended.
Perhaps the only intention of Macron’s opening speech was to put Britain in its place as he wraps himself in Angela Merkel’s mantle as leader of the bloc.
This man is, after all, the master of the passive aggressive. For him, Brexit represents an unpunished apostasy and since the 2016 referendum he has not lost the opportunity to make life difficult for his so-called allies across the Channel.
No one has been more obstructive in the seemingly endless Brexit negotiating process than the French president.
He was livid when Australia dared to secure its defense relations with Britain and the United States instead of France by signing the historic trilateral AUKUS nuclear submarine pact.
He threatened reprisals, even recalling his ambassadors to the United States and Australia.
And who can forget the threat to cut Jersey’s energy supply last May after post-Brexit UK fishing rules infuriated French fishermen.
He personally insulted our Prime Minister, calling Boris Johnson a ‘clown’ last December.
But all this seems forgotten today. And why? Well, the benefits of Britain’s huge economy for the EU have long played second fiddle to the ideological concerns of Paris and Berlin.
The Eurocrats were perfectly happy to see the industry suffer so that market integrity could be protected at great cost.
Now the cost of such pettiness has become apparent. Could Macron’s new “bloc” represent a desperate attempt at economic realignment?
If so, then who is the real clown here?
Macron has positioned himself, along with the Germans, as Vladimir Putin’s last friend in Europe.
Even though Britain has maintained a high-tech weapons airlift to Ukraine, the EU has vetoed sanctions that would undermine the EU’s Faustian energy pact with Putin.
Indeed, Macron – who pushed himself to the fore in a futile attempt to negotiate peace with Putin at the start of the invasion of Ukraine – has yet to make the trip to kyiv, which even the rock star Bono succeeded.
And French weapons play no significant role in Ukrainian defense efforts.
In truth, he is the little man from Europe and he continues to sing out of tune. His vision is of a more “cooperative” continent that continues to revolve around the Franco-German engine – no doubt with its own ego at the center – exiling the scum to the periphery.
But the problem is that many Member States no longer agree with what for decades was the status quo.
Brexit has already caused a groundswell of anti-union sentiment in countries like Poland and Hungary. The EU in 2022 is arguably more divided than at any time before.
After the French election last month, Downing Street had hoped for a reset in strained relations between London and Paris.
But it seems that such hopes are in vain. Macron and his entourage are more viscerally anti-British than ever.
When he was re-elected last month, it was hardly by enthusiastic endorsement. He was chosen by less than a third of French voters in the first round and won the second only because Marine Le Pen – seen by some commentators as “worse than Trump” – was seen as the greatest evil.
If the tumultuous boos from the crowd at last weekend’s usually cheery French Cup final in Paris were anything to go by, Macron faces tough challenges at home in the months and years to come.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) and Macron walk inside after inspecting an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on Monday
His lofty plans for greater European “cooperation” represent the overreach of an embattled ruler. Whatever Macron sells here, Britain shouldn’t buy.
In fact, there is an even better word in French that would suffice: “Degage”. Translated politely, this could be rendered as “backing off”.
We have to see this for what it is: the latest plot of a tin Napoleon, obsessed with his own vision of a European state, and a politician who cannot understand that – even six years later – the Brexit really meant Brexit.
n Jonathan Miller is the author of France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Gibson Square).