This week, France has warned Britain it is not “intimidated” by the numerous threats of a no deal Brexit. The country’s new Europe minister Clément Beaune vowed that French President Emmanuel Macron will be “intransigent” over his demands for full access to UK waters in the future. In his first public comments on the negotiations since being appointed on Sunday, he told France Inter radio: “We will not accept a deal at any price.
“Better no deal at all than a bad deal.”
Mr Beaune, who has been the French President‘s closest adviser on Brexit for the past three years, said Paris would rather bail out coastal communities than accept the UK’s current demands.
He said: “Let’s not kid ourselves. If there is no deal, it will be a difficult issue. We’ll have to organise a response for sectors like fisheries. Support our fishermen financially. We’re not there yet.”
Mr Beaune’s harsh comments are no surprise, though, as ever since Britain left the EU, the French President has adopted an intransigent attitude towards the UK.
Mr Macron’s most extraordinary attack against Brexit came in 2018, when he branded supporters of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU as “liars”.
He said at the Salzburg summit: “The Leave victory was pushed by those who predicted easy solutions.
“Those people are liars. They left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.”
In a throwback column for The Spectator, journalist Jonathan Miller argued that there is a reason behind Mr Macron’s “self-destructive” Brexit position: fear.
He wrote in 2018: “Macron’s quasi-spiritual faith in the EU is long-embedded. It was nourished at the national administration academy (ENA) and then at Rothschild bank where he was a courtier to David de Rothschild, and then again at the ultra-elite levels of the French administration.
“He pledged from the very start of his remarkable march to the Elysée to put the EU at the centre of his project, and on Brexit, to protect the sanctity of single market access, or as ultra-liberals might describe it, the single-market protectionism dear to French leaders.
“Yet it is worthwhile to ask why Macron, who is not stupid, is suddenly so zealous. Indeed rabid. Dispatching thunderbolts, he calls those who advocated Brexit liars.”
Oddly, Mr Miller noted, none of his recent pronouncements on Brexit even briefly consider that France’s own economic interests demand a nuanced and cooperative Franco-British relationship, rather than a confrontational one.
He continued: “The British have much to offer France in inward investment and defence cooperation, not least in the Sahel. Why this petty connerie, then, from Macron?
“Curiously, given that the French export more to the UK than the UK to France, and there has been a vast exchange of population, to mutual benefit, all these deep and constructive relationships seem less important to Macron than protecting the ideological purity of the EU by flagellation of those seeking an exit from this nirvana.
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“Or maybe there is more to it.”
When you have eliminated the impossible, the journalist argued, the only explanations that seem to fit the facts are that Macron is a victim of grandiosity, a condition to which inhabitants of the Elysée are especially susceptible
Or, Mr Miller wrote, that a different scenario has presented itself, and that he is suddenly “terrified”.
He explained: “Here is my theory du jour. It is that Jupiter is Existentially Frit that Brexit will be a roaring success.
“Perhaps he has read Le Brexit va réussir (Brexit is Going to Succeed) by the brilliant Marc Roche, London correspondent for Le Monde for 25 years, who believes the perfidious Brexiteers will have the last and loudest laugh, mocking Europe, the bright lights beckoning, a stone raft turned to gold, like Singapore or Hong Kong.
“There is in theory a door C: that Macron has been convinced the British can be forced into a second referendum.
“But this has to be unlikely.
“The Prime Minister of Malta thinks this. Macron is smarter.
“It is not at all clear he really wants us in the EU at all. One of his heroes is de Gaulle.”
General de Gaulle famously kept the UK out by vetoing its entry on two occasions.