Skip to content
Society, Politics & Law

What does President Macron mean for Brexit?

Updated Wednesday 10th May 2017

A new occupant at the Elysée Palace - and a stongly pro-European one at that. What does that mean for the process of the UK leaving the EU?

Emmanuel Macron Creative commons image Icon Official LeWeb Photos under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license Emmanuel Macron

Amidst the turbulent past few weeks of UK-EU Brexit wrangling, relatively little attention has been paid to the effect the election of a new French president will have on these negotiations. UK tabloids have been busy instead making hay with their preferred EU bogey-figures, namely Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, who are both portrayed as bullies embittered by the very notion that a member state wants to leave the club. The victory of Emmanuel Macron – the insider’s outsider –suddenly means there could be another leader that comes to embody EU hostility to the UK after the Brexit referendum.

Macron’s win is a boon for Europe’s stockmarkets as he shares the pro-EU, pro-euro outlook that characterises Juncker, Merkel, and other powerful brokers of the Brexit talks. The opposite, of course, was true of his opponent in the run-off vote: Marine Le Pen. Where these two candidates also differed markedly, therefore, was on their attitude to how the UK should leave the EU.

During the tetchy drama of the presidential TV debate, Macron was at pains to explain to Le Pen that leaving the EU – which she had threatened to do by calling a British-style In/Out referendum – inevitably carries a large exit bill. In other words, the new French President can be expected to support a hard line on this aspect of the Article 50 negotiations. Here France will be singing from the same hymn sheet as Germany: both Merkel and her rival for the German chancellorship, Martin Schulz, insist that a settlement of the UK’s liabilities to the EU is a precondition for talking about a new free trade deal.

Another reason the UK may find itself at odds with France under Macron concerns the status of the border arrangement covered by the 2003 treaty of Le Touquet. It is this treaty that allows UK authorities to be based at French ferry ports in order to carry out passport checks; a similar rule applies for the Channel Tunnel. In effect, this system means the UK border authorities can filter out travellers without proper documentation, thereby reducing the number of people able to claim asylum upon landing on British soil. That is a big advantage as the French authorities may otherwise have an incentive to allow people to transit to Britain, because then they become someone else’s responsibility.

The Le Touquet Treaty is a bilateral agreement that has no relation to the EU or EU law. In principle, nothing stops this arrangement from continuing after Brexit. What it depends on is the willingness of the French government to stick to the deal and Macron is on record as saying he would seek to renegotiate this agreement. The deal is unpopular with the French public and several candidates made it a topic in their campaigns. Whether the new president is prepared, with the electioneering out of the way, to take a stance contrary to UK interests remains to be seen.

The problem, from a British perspective, is that the Brexit talks offer more avenues where France could play hardball. That would certainly be in line with Macron’s overall philosophy on the matter, which is best captured in his campaign quip that “the best trade agreement for Britain is called membership of the EU”. He has also made no secret of coveting the relocation of bankers and EU agencies, such as the European Banking Authority, from London to Paris. Indeed, the official EU negotiating stance is that the UK needs to cover the costs associated with moving agencies back to a member state.

Equally, discussions over a UK-EU free trade arrangement to replace EU membership will provide Macron with broader scope for promoting French interests. Issues of regulatory equivalence, the term used to designate mutually agreed standards for selling goods and services, will be central to this deal. It is thus quite plausible to imagine that the new French president will seek terms of equivalence that reduce the UK’s ability to deregulate in areas such as financial services. That would be a way to protect French banking and encourage a maximum degree of job relocation to Paris.

Whatever the exact outcome of the Brexit bargaining, the British government and the British electorate can expect a very different presidency from that of François Hollande. France’s outgoing leader was very much a quiet Frenchman who lacked domestic support and international credibility. His opinions on Brexit barely registered in the UK, which explains why David Cameron’s EU renegotiation was always preoccupied with winning concessions from Germany. Although a former minister to Hollande, Macron is keenly aware that he cannot make the same mistakes as his predecessor. Brexit offers the new president a chance for France to regain its standing in the EU system, which is why the UK government will need to stop focusing all its attention on German politics.

This article was originally published by the LSE EUROPP blog, under a CC-BY-NC-ND licence

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

How did Emmanuel Macron win the French Presidency? Creative commons image Icon Lorie Shaull under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

How did Emmanuel Macron win the French Presidency?

Last night [7th May 2017], Emmanuel Macron won a decisive victory over his far-right rival Marine Le Pen. How did a man without an established party land the top job?

Article
How do you become French President? Creative commons image Icon CC BY-SA 3.0 under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Society, Politics & Law 

How do you become French President?

Dr Richard Heffernan discusses how presidential elections work in France.

Video
10 mins
What does Marine LePen plan for France? Creative commons image Icon Blandine Le Cain under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

What does Marine LePen plan for France?

The far-right Front National candidate for the French election, Marine LePen, has attempted to soften the image of the party since taking over from her father. But what does her manifesto actually promise the people of France?

Article
Explore the baking and culture of Europe: France Creative commons image Icon The Open University / Map (c) Google under Creative-Commons license activity icon

Languages 

Explore the baking and culture of Europe: France

French bread doesn't start and end with the baguette

Activity

Languages 

Ouverture: Intermediate French

This course revises and consolidates your knowledge of French and teaches more advanced language skills whilst offering insights into many aspects of every day life in modern France. Your knowledge need not be formal; it could come from adult education classes, time spent in French-speaking countries, regular contact with French-speaking people or other sources. The course materials are carefully designed to develop the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. They also contain activities focusing on practicing language structures, grammatical explanations and learning strategies. This material is taken from The Open University Course L120 Ouverture: Intermediate French.

Video
15 mins
Goal-setting for a better world: Millennium Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda Creative commons image Icon DFID under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Goal-setting for a better world: Millennium Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda

The 2000 Millennium Goals set targets, aspiring to make the world a better place. As we reach the end of the year by which they were to be achieved, Yoseph Araya asks how we're doing.

Article
After the mudslide, what help does Sierra Leone need? Creative commons image Icon David Hon under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

After the mudslide, what help does Sierra Leone need?

Following the destructive landslides, which killed hundreds, Sierra Leone will need support from the rest of us. Professor Tony Redmond explains what they'll need.

Article
What Role is There For Development Agencies? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

What Role is There For Development Agencies?

How development agencies can help communities stabilise themselves in the face of the HIV AIDS challenge

Article
HIV AIDS: Challenges: Introduction Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

HIV AIDS: Challenges: Introduction

Susan Fawssett introduces a series of articles on the challenge of HIV AIDS, including the hold it has taken in developing countries, the socio-economic impacts, global responsibilities and how outside agencies can help

Article