France’s political leaders haven’t held again on Brexit. President Emmanuel Macron described some pro-Brexit politicians within the UK as “liars” on the EU summit in Salzburg.
Then got here Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who mentioned a Chequers-style settlement backed by the UK prime minister would imply “the tip of Europe”.
France has by no means hidden its allegiance to EU guidelines, however what’s driving the more and more blunt diplomacy from Paris?
For President Macron, Brexit has by no means been primarily about commerce.
France’s most vital buying and selling relationship is with Germany and the remainder of the only market and Mr Macron has made it clear that he is ready to take a success to French exports in an effort to shield the foundations that bind the EU membership collectively.
However for the French wine trade the UK is a really huge market. The UK buys between 1 / 4 and a 3rd of all of the wine France exports.
Final harvest earlier than Brexit
“We do not know what is going to occur, so we’re simply sitting geese,” mentioned Lionel Labat, export supervisor for Bordeaux wine service provider Yvon Mau.
“One of the best deal might be one which’s as shut as attainable to the state of affairs now we have as we speak.”
Unpredictability could make or break a winery – a lot of final yr’s crop was worn out by unhealthy climate. That is the final harvest earlier than the UK is because of go away the EU.
Revenue margins on the decrease finish of the market are very tight, depending on speedy border crossings and free entry to the UK market.
Yvon Mau, which counts a serious British grocery store amongst its greatest clients, says it’s already below strain from Brexit, due to the weakening pound.
British politicians are fond of claiming that nations like France will assist making concessions for the UK, in an effort to shield their economies – in 2016, the UK accounted for France’s largest commerce surplus in items.
However because the row over the UK’s Chequers proposal grinds on, there may be little strain on President Macron to vary his place.
One French MP advised me lately that, outdoors the Calais area, no-one in parliament was even speaking concerning the threat to French trade.
The sensation, he mentioned, was that Brexit was largely a British drawback and that France, snugly inside the only market, could be way more protected within the occasion of a no deal.
However there may be one other strain on Mr Macron that may be sharpening his rhetoric in the mean time – subsequent yr’s European Parliament elections.
Problem from Le Pen
Making exceptions to the only marketplace for the UK not solely dangers giving it an unfair financial benefit, however may additionally encourage EU member states – and even particular person areas of France – to demand their very own exceptions as properly, boosting assist for protectionist, nationalist events like Marine Le Pen’s Nationwide Rally.
Polling forward of the European elections suggests she’s presently operating neck-and-neck with Mr Macron’s get together, La République En Marche.
And with populist nationalist events rising within the EU, Mr Macron sees himself as combating for the liberal democratic soul of Europe.
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Accepting the Chequers deal because it stands would jeopardise that struggle.
As a substitute Mr Macron has chosen to ship a powerful message on the prices of leaving the EU, and the advantages of staying in.
And even those that stand to lose within the occasion of recent commerce limitations with the UK, like wine exporter Lionel Labat, see the only market as the larger prize.
“Germany and Belgium are essential,” he advised me. “Europe is a giant marketplace for wines, so it is good to be within the EU. We now have the soundness of the foreign money, and should you add collectively French, Italian and Spanish wines, that is an vital group when it comes to world consumption.”
The UK leaving with no deal could be horrible, he says, however not terminal.
“We’ll survive for positive. Can we think about that UK residents would drink solely non-European wines? I hope not!”
Few listed here are blaming their president for the lengthy shadow of a no-deal situation.
However Mr Macron has appeared more and more pissed off on the UK prime minister’s insistence that it is “Chequers or nothing”.
His risk final week to not attend a November summit on Brexit except actual progress is made in October may very well be seen as an try to strain Mrs Could into providing one thing else.
A no-deal Brexit would threat chaos at French borders, financial strain on surrounding areas and complications for sure corporations.
The federal government right here is getting ready a invoice which can give it the powers to cope with any penalties rapidly. However maybe the most important threat for Mr Macron, if negotiations fail, is actually acrimonious divorce may jeopardise safety and defence co-operation – a key concern for Paris after the UK leaves.
Negotiations have snagged on how you can handle cross-border commerce, however for France it is the worldwide politics that issues.