Why are Nigel Farage and the Brexit gang so scared of Emmanuel Macron?

Emmanuel Macron - what does the En Marche leader's election mean for Brexit?

The En Marche leader won the presidency today

Monday, May 8, 2017

In the wake of Emmanuel Macron's election victory, the reaction of the Brexiteers bordered on the vitriolic.

Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaign group spearheaded by Nigel Farage last year, even equated Macron's victory to France's surrender to the Nazis in 1940.

This reaction, while rather surprising in its ferocity, was nothing new. During the campaign Farage had endorsed Macron's opponent Marine Le Pen, despite her far-right history, suggesting she would be a better option for Britain than her centrist rival.

But what are Farage and the Leavers (which, come to think of it, sounds like a rubbish Brexit-themed folk band) so worried about? What do they see in Macron that's got them all worked up?

Well Macron, France's youngest leader since Napoleon, has been consistently tough on Brexit ever since Britain voted Leave last year. He believes in the strength of the European Union (he even addressed voters to the backdrop of the EU anthem yesterday), and is keen to strengthen the Eurozone. Ever stronger union, the central doctrine of the EU which is anathama to Brexiteers, is the core tenet of his philosophy.

In October last year, Macron gave an interview where it was said that while he accepted the result, he didn’t want Britain to get the “best of both worlds”, because it could provide incentives for others to leave the union should they become discontent.

Then Theresa May gave her address on Brexit on Lancaster House in January, which prompted an even harder response from the then-candidate. In an interview that aired on Channel 4 in February, he said clearly the rest of the European Union had to be preserved. He said the message of leaving without consequence couldn’t be allowed to spread, and he would be “tough” on the UK if the Government pushed through Brexit.

In the same interview he warned Theresa May her vision of retaining access to the single market, but rejecting its terms of membership, was inconsistent, saying the UK had to respect the four freedoms of the European Single Market if they wanted access. He also made it clear there had to be financial contributions.

In his manifesto he made his most belligerent statement of all, suggesting Brexit was a "crime" - with the obvious implication that Britain had to be punished for it. Theresa May and her fellow Brexiteers may insist that Britain has no obligation to pay a 'divorce bill' when it breaks with Brussels, but Macron doesn't see it that way.

If there's an upside to Brexit, in his eyes, it's the chance to bring French workers back from London across the Channel. In fact he had the cheek to use his Downing Street visit in February to announce a plan to reptatriate "banks, talents, academics [and] researchers." For many Brexiteers this is the gnawing fear, the kernel of doubt: that Brexit will result in a talent drain, with the best and brightest European migrants being wooed back to mainland Europe. Macron has happily played up to this fear so far, and we can expect him to do so again.

Indeed we can expect regular attacks by Macron on Britain, using his public speeches to urge a tough line against Theresa May and reinforce the French alliance with Germany that underpins the EU. Whereas Farage and his fellow Brexiteers might have got some sympathy from Le Pen, a fellow eurosceptic, Macron will offer no such succour. 

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