Emmanuel Macron’s hard man stance on Brexit shattered: ‘Would have had price to pay’

Emmanuel Macron warned of 'trouble' from UK by host

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Mr Macron is under increasing pressure as people across the country protest his government’s coronavirus policies. Tens of thousands demonstrated on Saturday afternoon, with footage on social media showing violent clashes between protestors and police in Paris. Rallies were held in dozens of other cities, including Marseilles, where chants of “Freedom, Freedom” or “Macron, your pass, we don’t want it” could be heard.

It is in reaction to Mr Macron’s so-called health pass as well as compulsory vaccination for certain professions.

From this week, people wishing to enter most museums and cinemas must now show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from Covid.

Lawmakers are to debate whether to extend its use in August for entry to cafes, restaurants and shopping centres.

Mr Macron has remained steadfast in his position despite the momentous pushback.

It is characteristic of the president’s political style, as was demonstrated during the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU.

Mr Macron was widely viewed as having stood in the way of a trade deal between Downing Street and Brussels late last year.

At the time, negotiators believed he was gambling on the theory that no deal would be so unpopular in Britain that Boris Johnson would cave in and accept Brussels’ offer within weeks of leaving the single market and customs union.

He also for a time refused to budge on his demands for access to UK fishing waters.

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Many believed he was making an obstacle of himself in order to play to his domestic audience as the country’s 2022 elections approached.

Yet, even before this, Professor François Heisbourg, the chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, appeared to predict Mr Macron’s future positioning.

Talking to The Guardian in 2019, he said this hard man stance was calculated in order not to lose political favour in France, despite the negative consequences it could have.

At the time, UK commentators compared Mr Macron to General de Gaulle after he had refused the UK a longer Brexit extension at the EU summit.


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As Prof Heisbourg explained: “To have seemed to have stepped back would have had a political price, so the De Gaulle narrative was a constraint.

“He would have had more of a political price to pay if he seemed too soft than too hardline.”

The publication noted: “But what really lies behind Macron’s tough line is that Brexit is becoming a political problem in France.

“His grand plan to overhaul the EU, from the eurozone to Schengen, is already complicated enough to deliver – with little consensus in other capitals on a joint future project.

“Time is slipping away and a never-ending Brexit hogging the agenda would limit Macron’s ability to achieve any part of it.”

He and the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel are widely seen as spearheading the EU.

They have pushed for further integration with the union from member states.

Meanwhile, with the Brexit deal having been secured, Mr Macron has moved to reconcile ties with the UK.

Last month, he offered to reset relations so long as Mr Johnson stood by the UK’s Brexit divorce deal.

A source told Reuters: “The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship.

“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans.”

The Government has since challenged details of the divorce deal, this week arguing that border checks on goods from Great Britain it signed up to in 2019 have proved unsustainable.

Brexit Minister Lord David Frost said the checks were damaging the “fabric” of the UK and risked harming business.

The EU hit back and said it would not agree to renegotiate the terms of the 2019 deal.

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