LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Saturday 20 January 

The summit provided a counterproductive platform for Mr Macron’s Brexit charm offensive, its outcome points to the pitfalls of the EU’s ever-growing expansion.

Another summit, another splurge. At £44.5m, the cash handout to President Emmanuel Macron’s Government is a thousand times lighter than Theresa May’s net offering to Brussels thus far, but it is still a significant amount, more importantly, it was unnecessary.

Much like the defeatist withdrawal agreement signed in Brussels last month, the media are overplaying the slender positives. Macron has backtracked, they say, having promised during his bid for the presidency to do away with the Le Touquet agreement underpinning the reinforced border controls which will be the beneficiary of the extra funds.

What many have failed to point out however is that France needs the accord with Britain. The Chaos in Calais would be truly desperate if migrants knew they had a better chance of making it over the border.

The money will also go to processing asylum applications, quicker – 25 days, down from six months -and to deporting the failed ones. Faster processing times are hardly a deterrent, and deportations, based on current performance, are no more than an idle threat. Most illegals in France are economic migrants, yet less than 5% are sent home, an essential measure if illegal immigration is to be disincentivized.

Macron is moving away from pre-election pledges on this front too. His prime minister Edouard Philipe will shortly publish a tighter immigration bill. But his MPs are not of the right wing, common sense type, nor the “workers first” left, but touchy-feely, metropolitan globalists. Whatever form the legislation eventually takes, it is unlikely to turn the tide.

Mr Macron certainly got what he wanted from the troubled British Minister, who agreed to accept 260 child migrants – a third of the Calais illegal migrant population under the age of eighteen – if indeed they are as young as that. Three Chinook helicopters will be dispatched to support France’s taskforce fighting jihadis in West Africa.

In return, Britain may be lent the Bayeux Tapestry. Macron’s grand gesture made earlier in the week for the probably Kent-made cloth hit the skids immediately as curators in Bayeux questioned whether it could be transported intact. France will also dispatch troops to the NATO mission in the Baltics – and this was supposed to be a bilateral summit.

Maddening multilateralism

The randomness of this troops for tapestries deal also points to the terminal illness induced upon bilateralism by European Integration. There is little scope within Europe for exlcusive agreements. The EU has swallowed up every single policy area (internal and external trade, immigration, home affairs, environment) all that’s left is military cooperation, and even then, as the EU’s own capabilities rise, exceeding those of most national forces, only Britain and France, with their large standing armies and nuclear capabilities have anything to put in the table, and only with one another.

The oncoming death of deals like the Anglo-French Le Touquet agreement point to why restrained multilateralism and one-on-one partnerships, the norm only a generation ago, remain the superior means of conducting international relations, if the less popular in Europe.

Turbo-charged multilateralism, overseen by supranational institutions like the European Commission and the ECJ have an automatic tendency to storm ahead. A disastrous  case of integration for the sake of it, leaving individual member states to pick up the pieces.

Le Touquet itself is a case in point, had the EU not created Schengen, France and the rest of continental Europe would have controlled borders: no migrant crisis, and therefore no need for the UK to help the French control the one external border they have left. Similarly, without Schengen, Italy, Greece, and now increasingly Spain would not be left largely to fend for themselves to deal with wave after wave of migrants, aggravated immeasurably by Angela Merkel’s unilateral invitation to hundreds of thousands of migrants.

And therein lies the other pitfall of fast-paced political integration. There’s always a risk of unaccountability lost in the layers of legislation, protocols, summits and treaties. In a one-on-one partnership, there’s nowhere to hide.

Canada or Canada plus plus plus

A scan of the headlines over the past few days would lead one to believe there were two Emmanuel Macrons attending different Anglo-French summits. One saying a unique and comprehensive trade deal with services included was possible, another reiterating the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier’s ultimatum: goods-based “Canada” deal or single market membership. No in-between.

“If you want access to the single market — including the financial services — be my guest. But it means that you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European jurisdiction” was Macron’s reply to the inevitable question about Brexit at a joint press conference with May on Thursday afternoon.

The next day, the Independent and even the Telegraph ran headlines on Macron’s promise of a “bespoke” deal. Even to some Brexiteers, subjugation to the EU courts and yet more handouts is worth not a second thought if a goods plus services based deal is in the offing.

The services at the back of most minds of course are the high tax generating financial kind. Continuing the present level of EU access for Britain’s financial institutions was “not feasible”, Mr Macron later qualified. This was the cold hard truth the likes of the Independent chose to ignore, but the otherwise obligingly pro-EU Financial Times did acknowledge – although the FT published its final account of the summit after fresh quotes from the French President had been delivered at an evening reception in London.

“You should understand that you cannot, by definition, have the full access to the single market if you don’t tick the box,” said Macron at the V&A. Adding: “so it’s [the bespoke deal] something perhaps between this full access and a trade agreement.”

There is an option for an expanded version of the Canada trade deal, but not by much and only if the EU can get its hands on more money to plug the budget crisis caused by Brexit. For Macron, the single market is indivisible. If Britain is to “enjoy” the full freedom of a goods and services trade, it will have to accept free movement too. Doing that would directly contradict the people’s will.

Not yet the king

Macron did a typically fabulous job of wowing the liberal media over the course of the one day summit. Wowing the crowd at the V&A with an “off the cuff” (doubtful) speech in English and an Oscars’ ceremony style selfie posted on the Prime Minister’s Twitter account.

Underneath the radar Macron was far from accommodating. Not budging over the payments and child refugees, even though its France’s problems. He also purposefully kept Mrs May waiting for 45 minutes before a pub lunch in her constituency. The Bayeux tapestry, a total con, and Britain will surely be picking up the bill.

Not an article is written about the man without references to his soaring stock in relation to Angela Merkel’s freefall. But, he is not the King of Europe yet. Luxembourg, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany expect to sign a comprehensive trade deal that suits everyone’s interests. Macron’s stark position over Brexit is only shared with his compatriot Barnier. And it is not as if France, Britain’s neighbour would be immune from a hard Brexit. A recent report by the EU’s committee of the regions highlighted the devastation a clean split from Brussels would cause to Macron’s home region in Northern France. Perhaps the French President should do less communicating, and more listening.