Now end election posturing over Channel migrants and Brexit, Macron

Now end the election posturing over Channel migrants and Brexit, Macron: Boris Johnson plans to push French president for a new entente cordial between the UK and France after he strolls to victory over Le Pen

  • Emmanuel Macron is on course for a thumping victory over Marine Le Pen
  • Exit polls predicted he had secured 58% of the vote while Le Pen had just 42%
  • Macron would be the first French president to be re-elected for 20 years 
  • Mr Johnson congratulated Macron within an hour of the polls closing on Sunday
  • Minister hope victory will trigger an end to Macron’s relentless ‘Brit bashing’ 

Boris Johnson will push prickly French president Emmanuel Macron for a new ‘entente cordial’ to deal with flashpoints over Brexit and the scale of cross-Channel migration after he won a second term.

Mr Macron, 44, clashed with the Prime Minister in recent months, chilling relations between Downing Street and the Elysee, as he sought to see off hard-right challenger Marine Le Pen. 

There have been stand-offs over fishing rights and also the way French authorities have failed to stem the tide of small boat crossings, despite taking millions of pounds off the UK Government.

The Macron administration was seen as talking tough to limit the impact of Le Pen, who comes from an anti-EU, anti-migrant background.

But Downing Street hopes that a new era of co-operation can now be launched.  Provisional forecasts from the presidential run-off suggested Mr Macron was on course for a thumping victory over his far-Right rival Marine Le Pen by a margin of 58 per cent to 42 per cent.

If the results are confirmed today, he will become the first French president to be re-elected for 20 years. 

Ministers hope that victory for the prickly 44-year-old will trigger an end to the relentless ‘Brit-bashing’ of his campaign and open the door to a new deal on stemming the flow of illegal migration across the Channel.

‘Hopefully now his electioneering is out the way we can come together around the table and look at sensible solutions to solve what is a shared problem,’ a Government source said.

French President Emmanuel Macron after winning the second round of the French presidential election

Marine Le Pen reacts as she prepares to deliver a speech to her supporters following her defeat in the French election

Ministers hope that victory for the prickly 44-year-old will trigger an end to the relentless ‘Brit-bashing’ of his campaign and open the door to a new deal on stemming the flow of illegal migration across the Channel.

Boris Johnson (pictured today) is to push for a new deal with Emmanuel Macron on tackling Channel migrants, as the French president heads for a second term

Will he be a lame-duck president?

Emmanuel Macron faces a new election battle to keep his Republique en Marche party in control of France’s National Assembly.

The centrist leader will be under pressure in the June polls to convince a divided nation to push through his election manifesto.

His tighter winning margin than in 2017 shows the discontent in France with his domestic record.

Five years ago, Mr Macron’s party won 308 out of 577 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Voters will have to choose between Mr Macron’s pro-EU agenda, Marine Le Pen’s populist National Rally and the radical-Left France Unbowed party led by Jean-Luc Melenchon.

If they can steal seats from Mr Macron’s party or form a coalition to vote down many of his plans, he will effectively be left as a lame-duck president for five years.

Eric Zemmour of the hard-Right Reconquest party has suggested forming a Right-wing alliance to block the leader’s reforms.

Mr Melenchon, who won 22 per cent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, has said he should become the next French PM in the June polls.

He said last night: ‘Macron’s election is the worst result of the Fifth Republic. He swims in an ocean of abstentions and spoiled ballots.’

Turnout in French parliamentary elections is usually lower than the presidential vote and was just 42 per cent of eligible voters in 2017.

French economist Christopher Dembik said: ‘He [Mr Macron] risks being a lame duck faced with major social discontent if he wants to implement sensitive reforms such as for pensions.’ 

Mr Johnson congratulated Mr Macron within an hour of the polls closing. He said: ‘France is one of our closest and most important allies. I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world.’

Thousands cheered in front of the Eiffel Tower after preliminary exit polls projected Mr Macron had won a second term in office with a crushing 58.2 per cent of the vote.

The crowd, mostly young people, danced to Daft Punk’s dance tune One More Time while waving French and European Union flags, sending a powerful message that the country was set to continue on its path as a pro-European nation.

With Beethoven’s Ode to Joy playing in the background, Mr Macron entered the Champ de Mars hand in hand with his wife Brigitte as supporters chanted ‘Macron President’.

In an ambitious victory speech, Mr Macron said: ‘From now on I am no longer the candidate for a party. I’m everyone’s president.’ He conceded France was ‘full of anger and division’, but pledged: ‘Nobody will be left by the wayside.’ Wearing his trademark blue suit and tie, he continued: ‘I know a lot of people voted for me tonight, not because of my ideals, but to block the far-Right.

‘I have been entrusted with their sense of duty for the next five years.’

The result was also greeted with relief in UK Government circles, where there was concern about Miss Le Pen’s policies, which included opposition to Nato.

Miss Le Pen halved Mr Macron’s 2017 margin of victory, when she was thrashed by 66 to 34 per cent, but in the end her bid to soften her party’s image and woo working-class voters facing economic hardship was not convincing enough.

Others were put off by accusations of racism and her ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

‘Left-wing voters felt they did not have a choice out of fear that the far-Right would rise to power,’ said David Khalfa, a political analyst at the Jean-Jaures Foundation think-tank.

But Miss Le Pen’s achievement in securing 42 per cent of the vote for a far-Right agenda will start a fresh round of soul-searching in France’s political establishment.

And even with his big win, analysts say Mr Macron still faces an uphill battle, with many voters viewing him as elitist and backing him only as the lesser of two evils.

As the election campaign ramped up in recent months, French ministers have attacked Britain over the migrant crisis, saying lax labour laws are attracting migrants, with president Macron reportedly dismissing the PM as a ‘clown’ after talks on the issue.

Mr Macron has also repeatedly criticised Brexit as he campaigned against Miss Le Pen’s Eurosceptic party. Tory Party chairman Oliver Dowden yesterday played down the attacks as electioneering and suggested a post-election reset of the relationship was possible.

‘I’m sure you don’t lose votes in France by bashing the Brits and bashing the British Prime Minister, particularly one who has delivered Brexit successfully in the United Kingdom,’ he said. But he stressed the need to bring the migrant crisis in the Channel under control. ‘If we don’t take action on this then it’s going to get much worse,’ he told Sky News.

Britain gave France £54million last year to police Channel beaches and has offered more support.

Exit polls predicted Macron had won a 58 per cent share of the vote while Le Pen had won 42 per cent

A woman walks out of a booth after voting in France’s second round of Presidential elections, at the French Embassy in Bangui

A Whitehall source said French efforts to stop migrants crossing illegally were ‘patchy’, adding: ‘Some days they can be quite effective in stopping the boats, other days they just seem to look the other way. We are giving them a lot of money and we need a lot more consistency.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to seek talks on the migrant crisis as soon as Mr Macron appoints a new interior minister.

She is expected to revive an offer to supply Border Force or British security staff for joint patrols on French beaches. Miss Patel will also ask Mr Macron to reconsider opposition to the idea of taking back migrants who cross illegally.

Former Home Office minister Sir John Hayes told the Mail: ‘Now the elections are out the way there should be a good chance of resetting the relationship with France and getting them to take their responsibilities seriously.’

But former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage suggested that Macron’s win would not help relations.

In an interview with Eamonn Holmes and Isabel Webster on GB News this morning the right-winger said: ‘He loathes us.

‘It’s the classic French, anti-British and particularly anti-English leader.

‘He’s an EU fanatic and he’ll never forgive us for Brexit, and we can expect more obstructionism.’

But quelle horreur! He thinks Boris is the devil incarnate

Commentary by Jonathan Miller 

As a French woman who cannot stand Macron and despises Le Pen, I’m staying away from the news. It’s a nightmare. I’ll cry when I vote Macron,’ said Nana yesterday, one of millions of voters preparing to cast her ballot for Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election.

This is how Macron was re-elected president of France on Sunday. By voters holding their noses.

The result was confirmed as the polls closed. The polling companies were unanimously forecasting a Macron win of between 54 and 58 per cent of the votes.

A convincing victory and one which marks the end of Marine Le Pen. This has been her third failed attempt at the presidency.

Few here greeted the results with enthusiasm. Weary resignation characterised the general mood.

Supporters of Marine Le Pen were seen in tears shortly after the exit polls predicted a win for Emmanuel Macron

Supporters of Macron celebrate at the Champs-de-Mars after he won the second round of the French presidential election

The re-election of Macron is not good news for France – which faces five more years of his eccentric, egocentric politics – nor for Britain and Boris Johnson, who is seen as the Brexit devil incarnate by the Paris political establishment, including in particular the tight circle surrounding the president himself.

Johnson has so far stoically put up with Macron’s tantrums, insults and his hard lines over the EU withdrawal agreement.

The Prime Minister can surely no longer be under the illusion that Macron is his ‘friend’.

For the European Union itself, the French election is the least worst result. A Le Pen victory would have been a disaster.

Her promise to make French law supreme to EU law would have amounted to a Frexit.

Macron talks of a deeper, stronger EU (led by him) but the Europe he imagines is a fantasy.

The days when the Germans and French called all the shots are finished.

Europe has moved on – split asunder by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with Poles and eastern Europeans in one camp and the French in another.

It’s a curiosity of the French political system that a greatly disliked politician rejected by 72 per cent of voters in the first round has held on to his job, despite his previous five-year term characterised by rising crime and civil disorder, incomplete and abandoned economic and social reforms, an often incoherent and absurd Covid policy, as well as innumerable scandals and unanswered questions.

A supporter of French President Emmanuel Macron holds a placard reading ‘Emmanuel Macron With You’ and others wave flags as they watch the first election projections being announced in Paris

Macron has a talent for talking too much, listening too little.

Even if it’s true that the French like a bit of arrogance in their presidents, Macron’s utter lack of humility is grating.

He’s incapable of empathy with ordinary French people. Yet he adores posing for photographs. His arrogance is likely to be reinforced by his victory.

His re-election isn’t a democratic endorsement of a respected leader, but the product of an electoral system guaranteed to ignore what people really want and instead impose on them a choice likened by some here as between plague and cholera.

As if to add insult to this farcical election, it was an exact re-run of the previous presidential election in 2017, in which Macron beat Le Pen by 66 per cent to 34 per cent.

Le Pen closed the gap, but still was unable to seriously dent an incumbent who is widely distrusted and unloved.

All the problems facing France, unresolved or made worse in Macron’s first term, are still present.

Macron is again at the helm, facing a cluster of colossal crises including war in Europe, restless cities, skyrocketing inflation and collapsing public services.

There are those who say that despite all these problems, France remains a paradise.

And it’s true that the France most British tourists see on holiday can be delightful.

But for millions of people, la vie en rose, washed down with an agreeable rosé and some olives, is not the way it is.

The terrible position in which France now finds itself is partly of Macron’s own making.

Now that Angela Merkel has finally left the stage, the French president considers himself ex officio the uncontested leader of the EU.

Supporters of Macron gathered at the Eiffel Tower before he addressed them following his victory on Sunday night 

But German allies have turned out to be faithless and wholly dependent on Russian energy.

The European defence force is a joke, a paper tiger when confronted with Russian aggression. It’s not the French or the Germans who are helping Ukraine but the Poles, Czechs, Balts, plus Americans and Brits who are not even in the EU.

Macron might imagine he is the ringmaster of this circus.

He’s more of a clown – which, incidentally, is an insult he levelled at Boris Johnson.

Macron and the team around him are viscerally anti British.

They have imposed an EU withdrawal agreement on Brexit Britain that is a time bomb for future conflict.

Instead of accepting Britain as a friend on independent terms, for the benefit of both sides, Macron insisted on aggressive punishment of the Brits for their insolence in leaving his beloved European Union.

France and Britain have the closest imaginable commercial and social connections.

Macron and his men have ignored this and picked fights even as he has annoyed his supposed allies in Europe.

In France, the misery will now continue as the exhausted electorate is invited to vote again in June elections for the National Assembly.

At which point, Macron will have to stitch together some kind of government with a parliamentary majority that is unlikely to be stable or durable.

Vive la France? There’s trouble ahead.

  • Jonathan Miller is author of France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Gibson Square).

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