The French Republic is left out of some of the biggest deals happening around the world, a general symptom of France losing its mojo.
France’s craven leader, Emmanuel Macron, will struggle now to return to office a second time, after the humiliation of picking a fight with Britain and backing down at the last moment.
Macron’s absurd threat to Britain to blockade British lorries from French ports if he didn’t get his way over a fishing row spectacularly backfired when at a critical moment he realised that no only did he not have the support of the French, or indeed the EU, but that Britain was poised to use the Netherlands as an alternative trucking port. That move would have not only angered the EU, but made him look like a fool in the face of French business which was growing increasingly weary of the UK boycott of French goods at British supermarkets. To adopt the role of playground bully, it would be wise to have a small group of heavies behind you.
In the event of Macron’s threats, he wasn’t able to pull off the bluff and this is sending signals to Brussels that he is out of control and threatening the project. For other member states to step forward and offer to work with the UK as a welcome trading neighbour makes the EU look divided, fatuous and practically a failed project.
But the EU elite in Brussels has a problem with Macron. He made the move in late October to seize a UK fishing vessel to kick off a new political ruse to win votes, only to realise that after a begging letter to the EU Commission and lobbying in Brussels for support, that nothing came back at all.
The signal is that the EU commission boss is not happy about Macron playing this role as the unofficial leader of the EU, with his speeches, assumptions and shared vision of the grandiose project. Macron has taken this assumption too far and crossed a credibility line and many EU mandarins worry that the scraps which he gets himself into with Brexit Britain do more harm than good for the credibility of the project.
Boris Johnson calling his bluff was a massive blow to Macron and his presidential campaign. In the eyes of many French, he looked weak and foolish and when the climb down came, the French press put the boot in, along with his opponents who were happy to be quoted in British newspapers.
But how much damage has he done to his own campaign to start on this note, for the next six months?
Some would argue that he would have lost many votes as the stunt was seen for what it was: a vote grab which backfired.
Others will look at the overall state of the French economy and blame pro-EU fanatics like Macron for the mess that it is. French industry is no longer competitive and the economy is suffering. And being tied to the euro, some economists would argue, isn’t helping. Poor growth, high taxes and poor foreign investment and a general feeling that the Republic is left out of some of the big deals happening around the world are all together a general symptom of France losing its mojo.
Who after all can blame the Aussies for not buying outdated diesel engined submarines from France?
Even in Africa, where France’s presence was always highlighted by those who wish to champion the country against criticism, France is losing its influence and business. In Mali, France’s policy these days is to look to the UN to help it keep order there so that French companies can operate there and French citizens have a certain amount of protection against militants. In North Africa, where France had a real influence due to colonisation, France, under Macron, has lost both Morocco and Algeria as key partners in recent spats.
The threat to block UK trucks from British lorries entering France was a fuse blowing. Macron is panicking as a deluge of protests in France over the state of the economy and the country’s waning influence around the world is beginning to be felt.
Macron doesn’t have a silver bullet for the economy and people are tired of his euro-rhetoric once published in British newspapers. The refusal from the European Commission to back up his ill-conceived plan to “teach the UK a Brexit lesson” (to paraphrase the letter from his own prime minister) was a sign to him that he no longer has the unwavering support from the EU as it now sees him more as a liability than an asset.
The problem for those within the EU bodies like Ursula Von Der Leyen, a German national, is that many are only too aware that with the departure of Angela Merkel, that Macron will see himself now as the leader of the project. If he fails to win a second term as President, the irony is that he will almost certainly look to the EU for a top job there as a payback, as this is sadly how many EU leaders regard the project, not unlike a sort of pension scheme which they cash in, while keeping their political clout.
In Lebanon, where Macron visited after the Beirut bomb, hugged women and promised to revamp the political system, Macron has not impressed the Lebanese after a year has passed and nothing has come from his Paris office.
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