He couldn’t save Lebanon, despite all the rhetoric. Libya too was a disaster, as was his more recent battle with the firebrand Turkish president over a row in the Eastern Med about energy exploration. And now, France’s cursed President, Emmanuel Macron, is going to lead his nation in a campaign which will take him and the entire French economy over the abyss on Brexit.
Remarkably, as the EU stands and watches, Macron, a man tortured and cursed by defeat wherever he goes around the world, is about to throw the lever on the French economy as he prepares to go into battle against Boris Johnson over UK’s rights to claim back its waters, deal or no deal in Brussels.
The French leader has made it quite clear that he is not prepared to scale back French fishermen’s catches, post Brexit, when the UK would ideally expect to take back all of its waters which it agreed to give up, when it joined the European Union in 1973.
This, experts worry, is a coded message to French fishermen to block British ferries from entering French ports from New Year’s day when Britain will be entirely out of the European Union and operating on WTO trade rules with its goods and services within the EU 27.
But is he serious? Or is it a bluff which he has forced himself to resort to, given the reality of Brexit for France? Against strong opposition from Germany, which fears that the fishing dispute will derail a UK trade deal with the EU, which both sides say is more or less ‘oven ready’, Macron is the problem.
A no deal Brexit for the UK will present some logistical problems for Boris Johnson and hundreds of UK firms who need to export their goods into the EU without a hiccup on January 1st.
But for France, a no deal Brexit would be a total disaster which would not only make it an enemy of Britain, but would almost certainly plunge the country into both an economic and political Armageddon.
If French fishermen go ahead with blockades, the obvious respite from Boris will be to totally block all trade with France. Given that, according to Macron, two thirds of all the produce in UK supermarkets comes from France, this would be a devastating blow to France’s economy and would certainly mean job losses in this sector. And it isn’t just food, which the UK could easily import from other countries. It’s also wine. The French President seems to forget that Brits love French wine and, in fact, the highest consumer, per head, of Champagne are the British.
And presumably, if French fishermen are busy with their antics at French ports, they are not out fishing anyway, so France is the big loser. This will certainly be the case when Boris is not only forced to boycott French goods, but when the UK develops better relations with EU countries who will help British truckers get into the European Union, like Denmark and Belgium who are unlikely to follow the French blockades.
All this skulduggery from Macron points to one thing: a new set of trade talks, with a new chief in Brussels and Britain in a stronger position to negotiate on better terms in the early months of next year. This is actually what Boris and some hardcore Brexiteers believe is a better strategy anyway.
In reality, it is France and Macron’s threats, which are the real cause of friction between the UK and the EU and threaten to stop a trade deal getting the green light. While many EU apaches argue that Britain can’t have zero tariff trade with the block AND have its own waters back which gives preference to British fisherman, Boris believes that it can. The barb is simply Macron’s political future. And so the threats start to become less veiled and clearer to see.
The last statement from Macron about French fisherman is both revealing and preposterous.
“The fishermen will not in any situation be those sacrificed to Brexit. We didn’t choose Brexit. Preserving access for our fishermen to British waters is an important point for us.”
Is he hinting that he wants compensation from the EU to fisherman who will lose their livelihoods? Or is it, more likely, that he will pretend to be unable to stop the inevitable blockades at the ports once it starts?
This game of cheap threats and blackmail though, Boris should be getting used to by now. It is, after all, the French Navy which seems to be completely unable to control the flow of asylum seekers from Calais to the shores of Britain, where our own government ministers are unable to do anything but give them shelter and hospitality. Given that there are thousands of Brits around the world who have lost their livelihoods through corona and who are heading back to the UK penniless – and probably won’t receive benefits after being abroad for too long – Boris needs to stop this game the French President is playing, for his own political reasons. It’s time now to stand up to Emmanuel Macron and show the French who the English Channel belongs to and to give back jobs to thousands of British fishing families. He also needs to put the French Navy in order which is actually assisting refugees enter the UK. At the beginning of WWII, when France looked like it was days away from being occupied by Germany, Churchill, we should remember, offered an ultimatum to the French, worried that its Navy’s ships would fall into German hands: blow up your own ships, or we will.
Boris may well be mulling a similar idea as France continues to humiliate us and profit from us. Are British battleships in the Channel going to square off against France’s as these threats mount? It’s time now for Boris’s Churchillian moment against the French and Macron who continues to look like a battleship sunk in its own port.