(Evesham) When Emmanuel Macron was elected as President of France, he quickly became the EU’s biggest opponent to Brexit. He tried to entice British banks to relocate to Paris and did everything in his power to ensure Brussels’ negotiations with London were as difficult as possible. In April, The Independent reported that the French President was open to the idea of a second referendum or a general election to delay Britain’s EU exit, or even the possibility of the British Government issuing new red lines.
However, Macron’s attitude to Brexit has changed recently. Despite being a staunch Europhile in favour of further EU integration, in May the French President told Belgian newspaper Le Soir that the EU needed to end this continuing saga. This stance is different to the one he adopted a month earlier. Numerous factors could have shifted his position. Perhaps after comfortably defeating Marine Le Pen two years before, he feels humiliated that he has suffered defeat at the hands of his former opponent during the European elections. It could be that the Brexit Party’s surge at the polls forced him to realise that leaving the EU is still the most popular option among British voters. Or he has realised his Europhile tone has failed to divert attention away at home from a sluggish economy, increasing Euroscepticism and violent protests enflaming Paris’s streets. But something has shifted Macron’s attitude to Brexit, and he is correct – deal or no deal, Britain must leave the EU ASAP because it continues to ‘pollute’ Brussels’ agenda.
Though Macron will no doubt use Brexit as an opportunity to unite the rest of the EU behind his federalist agenda and ensure Brussels can concentrate on other issues, these are not the two main reasons why the French President’s analysis is correct. He is right because for three years, Brexit has contaminated British politics. The European elections prove the British electorate feel betrayed by the two governing parties and they cannot move forward until the issue has been dealt with. They are fed up of compromises on leaving the EU.
Whilst the rise in Liberal Democrat support proved that a large proportion of the electorate favour a second referendum, those who voted for the Brexit Party want the UK to leave with no deal. Labour figures are pushing for a second referendum after being crushed by the Liberal Democrats. This leaves the Conservatives in a precarious position – do they continue changing the Withdrawal Agreement once they have elected a new leader, or do they start becoming the “no deal” party?
Therefore, it is so important the Conservatives select their next leader carefully. Electing another “wet” Tory who favours closer ties to the EU will further tarnish their reputation in the electorate’s eyes. Or, as James Forsyth warned in The Spectator, it will destroy them. The new leader must keep no deal on the table because it is the only possible outcome in the following months. Brussels has made clear the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be amended. If a new Prime Minister cannot make EU leaders see otherwise, the Civil Service must be prepared for a WTO exit.
Although Parliament opposes this, the consequences for all main parties if they keep the UK tied to the EU will be catastrophic and more defeats at the hands of the Brexit Party will happen.
People may not agree with Macron’s reasons for wanting us out by October, but it is not just European politics Brexit is polluting – it is polluting British politics, too. For the sake of the world’s oldest democracy’s survival, Brexit must happen sooner rather than later.