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EU delusions: French style

22 May 2017

15 May: newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a reception with military honours in the Chancellery in Berlin. Photo 360b/shutterstock.com

The new French President Emmanuel Macron’s first foreign trip, to nobody’s surprise, was to fly to Berlin the day after his inauguration. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to draw up a “common road map” for Europe and they insisted that neither of them saw treaty change as “taboo” if it strengthened the EU.

Macron’s election has been hailed by his fellow EU leaders and their cheerleaders in the media as a salvation for Europe and the end of "populism". They arrogantly fail to acknowledge that “Europe” is bigger than the EU. And if anything Macron is the arch-populist. He plays on people's fears and disillusionment by offering unachievable visions of a brighter future that others must pay for.

Macron wants a joint budget, parliament and finance minister for the eurozone and central command of military forces within the EU. After their talks, Chancellor Merkel said, “From a German perspective, it is possible to change the European treaties.” Both are determined to present a common front against Britain.

'They want us to remain subject to the EU Court.'

The German government has told us that the European Commission will “determine” when we have made “sufficient progress” in the negotiations. The French government has told us that financial services must be excluded from the trade deal and that the City of London must respect the “regulatory and supervisory standards regime” of the EU in future. This means they want us to remain subject to the EU Court.

Macron’s polices are not just about Brexit. The former investment banker plans to shore up European banks, still carrying extremely high levels of toxic debt, at the expense of French and other workers living in the eurozone. Even Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble have expressed coded reservations; they fear handing such assets to banks who burn money will end in a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Past failure

Similarly Macron’s domestic polices look doomed to repeat past failures. These include revival of his failed plans to “liberalise” the labour market when economics minister in 2015-16. He wants to remove both restrictions on the length of the working week and legislation protecting workers rights and has plans to cut 120,000 public service posts.

All those measures were deeply unpopular with French workers when first mooted. Even so 37 per cent of the electorate voted for Macron and so for privatisation and greater EU integration. They will have to deal with the consequences. In true EU style Macron has said he will, if necessary, implement his policies by decree if he fails to win parliamentary approval. It will be a tough fight in which we can only wish French workers all strength.