A significant and interesting interview with Professor Jean-Michel Salmon for Brexit Watch translated from the French - December 23, 2021
Can you briefly outline the cause of the tensions between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron?
These tensions are multi-causal but all their factors stem from a pretence by Macron's government to challenge the sovereign and legitimate positions taken by HMG in the context of Brexit.
Consider the four issues which are causing trouble: fisheries, Northern Ireland, illegal crossings of the English Channel (further aggravated by the drowning of 31 migrants on November 24th, 2021) and AUKUS.
On the first three, we are talking about the UK's internal space, whether on land or at sea. On the last, this is about a strategic decision taken by the UK government as part of its geopolitics.
It seems at this time that we are in the presence of an escalating diplomatic spat. Why is this so?
This escalating spat is basically a combination of two factors.
Firstly, a lack of respect for the British people's decision to leave the EU - a sort of lèse-majesté crime in the eyes of the French president, because of his self-assigned mission (perhaps, to his own view, the most important of his mandate), to further move the EU towards a greater degree of federalisation than so far achieved, and which is already much substantial.
This direction is taken without the direct consent of French people – please recall their rejection of the EU Constitutional Treaty by 2005, and note that no referendum has taken place since.
Secondly, the nearing of the French presidential election, now four months away: the future ‘presidential-candidate’ struggles to show his electorate that he is defending French interests tooth and nail. This in a context where the theme of sovereignty has gained a lot of ground in the country, based among other things on a renewed call to fight against immigration. Also worth observing is the debate on the primacy of European law.
It’s easy to see that the competition is fierce, and for Macron the European theme provides the backbone of his policy. He made this crystal clear with his speech at Sorbonne in 2017, followed two years later by his tribune published in a newspaper of every single EU Member State. Now he finds in this EU federalist positioning the best way to present himself as the protector of French citizens, in face of an euroscepticism he is depicting as 'appalling'.
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