James Forsyth

What does Emmanuel Macron mean for Brexit?

What does Emmanuel Macron mean for Brexit?
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It was a badly kept secret in Westminster that very senior figures in the UK government wanted Francois Fillon to win the French presidential election. He was regarded as being the best candidate for Britain, and the one most likely to be pragmatic on Brexit.

But with Fillon out, attention switches to Macron—the overwhelming favourite. Macron is emotionally and ideologically pro-EU. He has been clear that he doesn’t want a sweetheart deal for Britain. On his campaign visit to London, he talked aggressively about luring businesses to France post-Brexit. However, as Oliver Wright points out in a typically insightful piece in the Times this morning, one of Macron’s closest advisers is an author of the Bruegel report that proposed a ‘continental partnership’ between the UK and the EU. This, combined with Macron’s banking experience, suggests that he might take a softer-than-predicted line.

There is, though, reason to think that Macron’s position on Brexit might not be as important as you’d expect. He is likely to be consumed by domestic issues in the next few years. He won’t have a National Assembly majority. Instead, he’ll probably be governing in cohabitation with the right. He’ll also have to try and hold together a Cabinet made up of an odd mix of Republicans and Socialists. Meanwhile his priority in Europe will be persuading Angela Merkel to embrace Eurozone reform. All this will mean that the Brexit negotiations won’t be that high up his list of priorities.