This article by Allister Heath for the Telegraph dated 22.09.21 begins with these very criitical words:
These overrated accidental presidents have plenty in common, not least a shared dislike of Britain and goes on:
Why is the global Left so bad at choosing its heroes? Joe Biden was meant to be the anti-Trump, the saviour of Western multilateralism; Emmanuel Macron was the poster boy for European centrism, the brilliant reformer who would rescue the continent from descent into populist turmoil. Yet both men have turned out to be calamitously bad, accelerating the disintegration of the West.
It may not look like it at first, but Biden, America’s oldest president, and Macron, France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon Bonaparte, have much in common. They clashed in extraordinary fashion last week, with France withdrawing its ambassador over the Aukus pact, but this was a classic case of Coulomb’s Law: like charges repel one another.
Both men are overrated accidental presidents who rose to the top because they were seen as the least terrible option; both fancy themselves as great technocratic administrators, but are actually shockingly incompetent, as shown by the withdrawal from Afghanistan or France’s endless botched reforms; both are hypocritical semi-nationalists who believe in their own nation’s power and sovereignty but not anybody else’s; and both are presiding over the accelerating economic, social and moral declines of their countries.
Perhaps most unfortunately, both are anti-British: they share a dislike of this country, or at least are ready to bash the UK for domestic political gain. Biden’s aversion stems in part from his support for Irish nationalism, and his typically American misunderstanding of the history and politics of the British Isles. His State Department also still loathes and misunderstands Brexit.
Macron sees himself as a latter-day Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French who never forgave Britain for harbouring him and allowing him to liberate Paris. Being served hand and foot at the Élysée Palace does tend to turn presidents into megalomaniacs, but the effect on Macron has been especially toxic. More prosaically, bashing Britain helps him in the polls and, he hopes, dissuades Eastern Europeans from leaving the EU.
His attitude towards Britain since 2017 has been unforgivable. He spent the Brexit negotiations pushing the hardest possible position, deliberately seeking to undermine the City, helping to rule out a fuller, proper free trade deal that respected regulatory autonomy, and leveraging what should have been a resolvable technical question over the Irish border to permanently damage the UK.
He later threatened to cut off electricity to Jersey, and wrongly cast aspersions on the AstraZeneca vaccine. His government has now hit fresh lows, dismissing Britain as America’s junior partner, and describing Boris Johnson as the “fifth wheel on the carriage”.
Macron is treating Britain as an enemy to be contained, not a partner with which to navigate a treacherous world. Why? In a more rational and more truly Gaullist world, Brexit could have been accepted and followed by an Anglo-French partnership of equals, a new entente cordiale on matters of mutual interest. Instead, Macron’s miscalculations will guarantee more Australia-style rebuffs and an even faster fading of French influence. What a terrible, heart-wrenching waste.
Biden’s behaviour has been just as appalling. He no longer has any genuine allies: he sees other countries merely as a means to execute American self-interest, as useful instruments in his foreign policy. There is no respect, let alone friendship or gratitude. Other denizens of the White House at least had the sense to pretend to care; some, such as Ronald Reagan or George Bush, actually did, at least some of the time.
While the French got their just deserts on the Aukus deal – their support of Australia was far inferior to the US-UK offer – the secretive, undiplomatic way Biden behaved was unbecoming. On such grounds at least, Macron was right to be annoyed, though his petulance was ludicrous.
Biden’s treatment of Britain is especially egregious. If the Democrats now believe in free trade, they should be pining to reduce trade barriers towards the UK. Why, then, is a trade deal with the US impossible? Why couldn’t a narrow set of arrangements acceptable to both sides be realised? Or why couldn’t Biden invite us to join USMCA, the successor organisation to Nafta, a proposal mooted in Eurosceptic and Republican circles for as long as I can remember?
Why seek to “punish” us (and, given that free trade is mutually advantageous, American consumers and business) for being a faithful ally to the US? Why endlessly misrepresent the Good Friday agreement? Why reduce the chance of peace in Northern Ireland? As with Macron, this is not the way to treat friends.
The French president’s fury over Aukus will intensify his drive towards a European army, and an integrated EU foreign policy. This cannot end well.
It makes sense for the world no longer to follow America blindly: almost all of Washington’s foreign policy decisions since the end of the Cold War have failed disastrously. But when the French talk of pursuing their own path, they refer at best to idioctic semi-colonial adventures in Africa, or at worst to being more supportive of just about every authoritarian regime.
It was the French who sold the Osirak nuclear reactor to Iraq, who were most enthusiastic in signing deals with Iran after the ill-fated nuclear deal was inked, and Macron who secured a major deal for Airbus with the Chinese in 2019 in the wake of Sino-US tensions.
France remains a Colbertiste nation, obsessed with mercantilism; its statist economic policy at home guarantees stagnation, so deals with despots are its only hope. An integrated Franco-German foreign policy would be even worse – sucking up to Russia as well as China.
The dream of European strategic autonomy – a European defence no longer reliant on America – will lead to disaster. Nobody wants to spend the cash, not least the semi-pacifist Germans. It will finish off Nato, and tear the EU apart. Who in Eastern Europe would trust a Paris-Berlin axis over Washington for their defence?
The Left hailed Macron and Biden as the saviours of the liberal international order; but both men have already done more to trash it than anything Donald Trump ever concocted.
For the article in pdf please click here:
US President Joe Biden (L) and France’s President Emmanuel Macron speak after the family photo at the start of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 11, 2021.
Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Image