Just like during the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron is being extremely stubborn with Britain. Earlier this month, the two sides were said to be close to reaching an agreement until several EU member states, spearheaded by France, raised serious doubts about the direction of talks. Paris was reportedly concerned the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier might have compromised too much on fishing rights to secure a deal.
Because Mr Macron is facing domestic threats to his re-election, political sources in France claim he would rather see the talks flounder than agree to a 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 climbs up 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.”
Mr Macron’s close aide Clément Beaune has recently warned that France will veto a “bad” post-Brexit trade deal.
This means that even if the two sides strike an agreement, Paris could, in theory, prevent its ratification.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, though, Government trade adviser Shanker Singham revealed why he believes Mr Macron will ultimately back down.
He said: “From a French fisherman or French farmer’s point of view… consider carefully what no deal actually means.
“It means French fishermen will not be able to fish in the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) at all.
“It means that no French lamb and beef will be able to enter the UK market at all.
“This is because of the way that trade is done with the UK global tariff and the European common external tariff… if you aren’t in the quota that is agreed between the parties, that tariff is really high.
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“It is so high you would never be able to trade.”
Mr Singham added: “So, if French farmers are rioting in the streets of Paris for minor little infractions…
“Closing the most lucrative market they have forever, will cause absolute pandemonium.
“He knows this and clearly, there is going to be enormous pressure.”
In a recent report, the head of Oxford-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau shed light on Mr Macron’s potential rival at the 2022 presidential election.
He wrote: “As in the UK, the fishing industry’s economic contribution is small in France.
“Total sales were around €2billion (£1.8billion) in 2016, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) statistics show that less than 14,000 people were employed in the fishing sector in 2018. Employment in fishing has fallen by eight percent since 2011. But fishing, like agriculture, is symbolically important in France. And northern French fishermen take the majority of their catch from British waters.
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“Macron might be worried about Xavier Bertrand, a high-profile former member of Les Républicains and potential 2022 candidate who is close with the industry.”
He continued: “Bertrand is president of the Hauts-de-France region. He served as health minister under Jacques Chirac and labour minister under Nicolas Sarkozy.
“Last month, he attended the general assembly of the Coopérative Maritime Etaploise, where he called for arm-wrestling with the UK in fisheries negotiations.
“More good optics for him. Bertrand has recently been spotted in meetings with a string of senior right-wing political figures, including LR [The Republicans] President Christian Jacob. Rachida Dati supports his candidacy, and Le Journal du Dimanche reports that he will meet with Nicolas Sarkozy next month. With the help of LR deputy Julien Dive, he has also been meeting with parliamentarians this week, and is set to meet with senators next week. His think tank La Manufacture has been mobilised to develop an election campaign strategy, and a recent Ifop poll put Bertrand at the top of the list of potential right-wing candidates.”
Trust in Mr Macron is continuing to plummet amid the pandemic.
According to a poll published in October, around 62 percent of French people admitted to not trusting their President.
This result is six points up from the previous poll carried out in August, while trust in the government dropped five points.
The Elabe poll for BFMTV, which asked 1,000 people in France aged 18 and over, also found that nearly one in two people (47 percent) think the President is not taking “enough precautions” to limit the spread of the virus.
With the 2022 French presidential election nearing, these latest figures are clearly a worry for the En Marche leader.