The French President is once again being extremely intransigent with Brexit Britain. Last week, the two sides were said to be extremely close to reaching an agreement on their future relationship until several EU member states, spearheaded by France, raised serious doubts about the direction of the talks. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was forced to brief EU ambassadors and members of the European Parliament as diplomats were concerned he could be tempted to compromise too much to secure a deal.
According to senior political sources in France, because Mr Macron is facing domestic threats to his re-election, he would rather see the talks fail than agree to a bad deal that could tempt other EU states to leave the bloc.
Europe’s power to protect itself from major global rivals, pandemics, economic crises, migration and climate change will be a major electoral argument for Mr Macron as he readies for his 2022 re-election bid, most likely against National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who he defeated in 2017.
A source said: “France’s stance is to show that Brexit cannot be a success.
“From that point of view, the prospect of no deal is not necessarily a problem.”
The claims come as Mr Macron’s close aide Clément Beaune recently warned that France will veto a “bad” post-Brexit trade deal.
Mr Macron’s position is not unexpected or particularly controversial, though.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex and perhaps the foremost expert on the economics of Brexit, revealed France’s long record of stubbornly refusing to compromise in trade talks.
He said: “Many trade agreements over the last 30 years have had the splits we are seeing now.
“And they had to be settled through internal politics.
“It has almost always been France saying: ‘We don’t like this, we want to veto it.’
“They resolved them in different ways. For example, the swapping of senior jobs was involved.”
But in other cases, Mr Winters noted, the French were so stubborn, such as in 1994 with audio-visuals services, that Brussels had to cave in.
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The trade expert added: “The EU never negotiates audio-visual services because the French don’t allow it and the EU has to exclude that.
“Basically, Paris wasn’t prepared to have Hollywood undermine French culture.”
As Professor Winters explained, France has long been a champion of “cultural exception”, or “cultural diversity”, battling most recently for it to be upheld in the long-mooted, yet-to-be-agreed EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal, negotiations for which are reportedly on ice.
The country first introduced the concept of cultural exception during the 1993 negotiations around the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was succeeded by the World Trade Organisation rules in 1995.
Under the principle, cultural goods and services are treated differently from other commercial products, giving countries free rein to support and protect their own cultural sector as they see fit, through subsidies, quotas or obligations.
Last year, Mr Macron confirmed France would have ensured the European audiovisual sector was excluded from any all-encompassing UK-EU free trade agreement (FTA) post Brexit.
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Mr Macron laid out France’s position in a letter responding to written concerns expressed by the lobby group, the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity.
Mr Macron wrote: “France has always stood by the exclusion of audiovisual services from free trade agreements. It’s a key issue, for the protection of cultural diversity, on which the Council [of Europe] is unanimous.
“Our country has made this a major point in every commercial negotiation and has secured the exclusion of audiovisual services from all the free trade deals concluded by the European Union.”
He said France would demand “an explicit mention” of the exclusion of audiovisual services in any directives adopted by the EU Commission within the framework of a future FTA between the EU and UK.