French Press (2) – A Coffee Drinker’s View On The French Presidential Election

(II) Marine Le Pen’s Splitting Headache Over Europe

 

The situation at the Whirlpool plant, situated in the northern town of Amiens, underscores the nature of the combat between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. The fact that the American owners want to relocate the plant in Poland, is, for Le Pen, the epitome of globalisation and the suppression of national identity and barriers. Anything and anyone can move everywhere and anywhere, in the blink of an eyebrow. Marine Le Pen makes no secret of wanting France to quit the Euro and, ideally leave the EU altogether. One of the first clauses on her election manifesto reads as follows:

 

TO GIVE BACK TO FRANCE ITS NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY. TO STRIVE TOWARDS A EUROPE OF INDEPENDENT NATIONS, AT THE SERVICE OF THE PEOPLE:  to find our freedom and the control of our destiny by restoring to the French people its sovereignty (monetary, legislative, territorial, and economic). For that, a negotiation with our European partners followed by a referendum on our membership of the European Union. The objective is to arrive at a European project that is respectful of France’s independence, of national sovereignties and which serves the interests of the people.

If that doesn’t get your heart going, nothing will. The only problem with Marine Le Pen’s vision of France and her political agenda, is that 70% of her proposed policies are based on France leaving the EU. What she is beginning to realise is that the French people are not so keen to leave the EU, and even more reticent to leave the Euro.

I mentioned in a previous post that the French vote with their hearts in the first round, and with their wallets in the second. And this year will be no different, unless Marine Le Pen can change her stance on Europe. Realising that only 28% of the French are nostalgic for the French Franc and want it back, she is beginning to nuance her desire for a “Frexit”. On French television she admitted that she was “conscious of the worries of the French people”, and that she would organise a referendum before any decision was taken. She even went so far as to say that she, “felt European” and was not an “enemy of Europe”. Well, you could have fooled me, Marine. But on the other hand, having witnessed Theresa May’s spectacular embrace of Brexit, I suppose that anything’s possible. She must take into account that the French are Europe’s number one squirrels, when it comes to saving money for a rainy day. Practically everybody has a savings account, of which the Caisse d’épargne network of mutual savings banks, symbolised by a squirrel and so popular with the elderly, is just about as untouchable as Camembert cheese and Beaujolais Nouveau. Not surprising then, that there would be massive opposition to quitting the Euro, out of fear that savings would be significantly devalued in doing so.

Marine Le Pen now faces a dilemma. Her anti-European stance was good enough to earn her the right to fight the second round of the presidential election, but between now and May 7th, she needs to attract new voters. She has to reassure potential voters over what her position on maintaining the Euro will actually be, whilst at the same time, not seeming to do a U-turn on her anti-EU policies. Without quitting the EU, and the Euro, Marine Le Pen’s political manifesto is not worth the paper it’s written on, and the French voters probably know that. But promising to quitting both also seems not to be an option, because there’s a big danger that it may scare too many squirrels.

 

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