French President Emmanuel Macron just can’t stop bashing the Brits. This week the volume was turned up to 11 when it was reported he’d called Boris Johnson a ‘clown’ and a ‘knucklehead’.
True, the report was in France’s equivalent of Private Eye. It was denied by no one at the Presidential Elysee Palace.
It was just the latest example of Macron’s penchant for diplomacy by tantrum when it comes to relations with Britain.
A few days before, he’d implied that the UK’s attitude in ongoing post-Brexit talks risked war in Ireland. Earlier this year he questioned the efficacy of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine on no scientific grounds whatsoever but merely because he was in a strop after Britain had beaten France to the vaccine punch (France still doesn’t have its own vaccine).
French President Emmanuel Macron just can’t stop bashing the Brits. This week the volume was turned up to 11 when it was reported he’d called Boris Johnson a ‘clown’ and a ‘knucklehead’
So what is it that drives Macron’s anti-British rhetoric? One word, Brexit. A Europhile President, he has never forgave the British for their vote to leave the European Union. This is something he views as a self-inflicted madness, and it gives him a unique piquancy in his hatred of Johnson, the man who led the Leave campaign.
He’s also unleashed the coterie of sycophantic Europhiles that dominates his cabinet to pour merde on the Brits whenever the fancy takes them.
One threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply from France at the height of the fishing stand-off. Another dismissed us as a ‘vassal of America’. His prime minister said that in dealing with us, France had to realise we only understood the ‘language of force’, which is a strange, threatening thing to say about a supposedly close ally.
In this acrid atmosphere, it’s hardly surprising that Anglo-French talks to resolve the Channel migrant crisis have been getting nowhere.
So what is it that drives Macron’s anti-British rhetoric? One word, Brexit. A Europhile President, he has never forgave the British for leaving the European Union. He sees it as a self-inflicted madness. This gives him a unique piquancy in his hatred of Johnson who was the Leave leader.
Remember, this is a man who took to the stage for his victory rally in front of the Louvre on election night in 2017 not to the strains of La Marseillaise (the French national anthem) but Beethoven’s Ode to Joy (the anthem of the European Union).
It’s not just anger with Britain that propels his rhetoric. It’s fear of the implications of Brexit for France.
British success can’t be ignored or recognized.
When the UK clinches a massive submarine deal with Australia and America, stealing it from under the nose of the French; when Unilever and Shell announce they are moving their global headquarters to Britain; when Paris fails to lure any major financial institutions from the City of London — all this throws Macron into paroxysms of anger because it suggests that Global Britain might be more than a slogan. And that can’t be allowed to come into being.
There is no discernible ‘Frexit’ movement in France, but the most serious challengers he faces in his re-election bid next year are all various shapes of Eurosceptic.
Because he is afraid that any perception of Brexit Britain as a success could only feed the French Eurosceptics, he makes every effort to minimize it.
France’s mainstream center-left and centre-right parties were strongly pro EU, but Macron defeated them in an election four years back. They are not recovering.
Jean-Luc Melenchon has filled the vacuum on the left, while Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen have filled the gap on the right. All three despise Brussels and Macron’s ambitions for a more powerful EU
Jean-Luc Melenchon filled the gap for the Hard-Left, as well as Eric Zemmour (for the Far-Right). All three despise Brussels and Macron’s ambitions for a more powerful EU.
Macron is dealing with the threat they pose in a pincer movement: he’s moved on to their territory with more populist, nationalist rhetoric about immigration and law and order; and he never misses an opportunity to demean Brexit Britain as an increasingly irrelevant entity cast adrift in unforgiving, unsplendid isolation.
Of course it is self-serving and unprincipled opportunistic nonsense. But it’s also a tragedy because this is a time when Anglo-French relations should be getting closer and stronger, not mired in pathetic and childish mud-slinging.
America will pivot to the Pacific in order to confront China’s rise, and it is likely that America’s resolve to remain in Europe will wane. Europe is at risk from a revanchist Russia to its east and political instability on both sides of the Mediterranean. This makes the world a very dangerous place. Doubly dangerous as America’s attention and priorities move to the other side of the world.
Joint Anglo-French forces are the only thing that could fill in America’s gap. Both of them are powerful military forces, roughly equal in size. Both of them are nuclear powers. Both of them are UN Security Council members. Both possess assets and territories out of the country. Unlike the rest Europe, and especially the Germans, both countries are willing to resort to force when necessary.
It is impossible to see how many countries are already cooperating despite the absurdity of the words being thrown back and forth over the Channel. It is remarkable that neither side talks about it.
For example, it is not generally known that the deputy commander of Britain’s First Infantry Division is a French brigadier- general. It is not known that the British officer serves as the deputy commandant of the French counterpart force. There is already in existence — and fully operational for a year now — a joint Franco-British rapid reaction force capable of deploying 10,000 personnel by land, sea and air into combat zones.
British troops have provided heavy-lift capabilities in Africa to French forces, and our Chinook helicopters took French soldiers to front lines in the Sahel.
Our nuclear weapons programs are closely linked. Our cooperation is close in the Pacific. In a joint venture, BAe and Airbus are developing new air-launched rockets.
Relations between our MI6 and DGSE, France’s equivalent foreign intelligence service, have never been closer as we fight the common terrorist threat together. There is much we can learn from one other.
France is far behind the capabilities of our GCHQ with its global intelligence gathering. Paris needs to share intelligence. But France has the ability to deploy crack special forces anywhere there’s a terrorist attack in mainland France within 20 minutes. London can learn from France’s experience.
France does not have similar detailed ties to any other country. Franco-German military collaboration is no longer a topic of conversation. The French don’t rate German military resources or the Germans’ will to deploy them.
Although we have strong ties to America, France remains our largest military partner.
There is much more to be done. But there is much more. It may seem foolish to trust in Anglo-French collaboration, considering the way they have been mudslinging this year. It is my belief that the geopolitical logic will be inescapable as events continue to unfold.
Any extension of such links may have to wait on Macron’s departure or a British prime minister with a firmer grasp of foreign policy imperatives than Johnson.
Maybe Macron will mature in a second term (which he’s likely to win) as French presidents are not permitted to serve more than two consecutive terms and, without the need to campaign for re-election, he could afford to drop the populist posturing.
Johnson might realize that an alliance with France is essential to any strategy for Global Britain.
Prior to the 2020s, events and our common interests will be driving us towards a new Entente Cordiale. Without it, our mutual value will diminish.
What I thought was the point of flying to Britain?
It was my business trip to London and some fun pre-Christmas activities.
This week, I was due to travel to London for some business purposes and pre-Christmas fun. But I cancelled, not out of fear of the new Covid variant taking root, but because travelling across borders is now such a rigmarole that it’s best avoided unless essential.
Last week I couldn’t avoid it, which meant turning up at the airport in France with a file of paperwork: not just a passport but proof of Covid vaccination, proof of a recent Covid test, proof that another test had been booked on arrival, and a signed ‘attestation’, or declaration, in which I made various promises I didn’t fully understand.
Only then do they issue you with a boarding card (which you can no longer generate online before going to the airport — those were the days!).
It was too complicated and I resolved to remain put. Many others have since followed my lead and decided to go to the UK.
Rules and paperwork only have a small effect on the control of the pandemic. However, they do deprive the British of its much-needed spending power.