Emmanuel Macron’s ‘EU could fail’ confession exposed as Frexit sentiment erupts

Macron and France 'are failing' on vaccine rollout says Moutet

The French President is under major pressure from the public, due to his country’s slow response to the coronavirus vaccine roll-out. This week it emerged that France had only given 516 vaccinations in its first seven days of use, a stark contrast to Germany and the UK. As well as the growing fury surrounding his government’s policy on vaccinations, Mr Macron is also facing a huge task in securing a second term as President.

His pro-EU tendencies have also been placed under the microscope.

Days after the UK left the EU on January 1, Charles-Henri Gallois, the President of Generation Frexit – a term used to symbolise France’s possible exit from the bloc – demanded that 2021 be the year the French are given a chance to vote on their place in Brussels.

He said he hoped Mr Macron “will allow the French people to also be able to express themselves democratically on our membership of the EU”.

Mr Macron has also seen developing anti-EU sentiment grow as more than 10,000 people signed a petition urging the government to allow a vote.

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And with France beginning to establish a stronger pro-Frexit feeling, unearthed accounts show that Mr Macron himself was only too aware of how the bloc is considered by other member states.

In an outraged speech, Mr Macron warned the EU it was “screwed” if MEPs were not able to return to debate at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, and just used the Brussels building.

As a result of Covid-19 in September, plenary sessions had not taken place in Strasbourg, as the authorities wished to reduce travelling to control the virus.

Traditionally, the European Parliament sits once every month in the French city, while all other sessions are held in Belgium.

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But during a visit to Lithuania, Mr Macron told university students he was trying to protect the bloc from misconceptions regarding its openness.

He warned that it could spark anti-EU reactions if all sessions were just held in Brussels, as opposed to in France as well.

He said: “At the moment I’m fighting tooth and nail for the idea that the European Parliament should convene in Strasbourg.

“If we accept that the European Parliament only gathers in Brussels, we’re screwed, because in 10 years’ time everything will take place in Brussels and people will only speak amongst themselves in Brussels.

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“But Europe does not represent this idea, the idea is for everyone to respect each other, for one to go toward the other.”

His comments on how to push the EU forward, particularly in the pandemic, came after the President attacked the UK for finally leaving the bloc this year.

After months of talks, with Mr Macron reportedly putting up barriers on sticking points such as fishing alongside his German counterpart Angela Merkel, the UK was free to “take back control” of its sovereignty, laws and trade.

Yet, Mr Macron took a final swipe at the UK in his New Year’s address to France.

He described the UK as “our neighbour, our friend and ally,” but added: “This choice to leave Europe, this Brexit, was the child of the European malaise and of many lies and false promises.”

During his ninth televised address of the year, Mr Macron said the Brexit trade deal agreed with the UK was “defending our interests, our industries, our fishermen and our European unity”.

Mr Macron faces re-election in 2022 and will likely come up against right-wing rival Marine Le Pen, a lawyer serving as head of the National Rally party.

While facing the wave of negative EU criticism from the likes of Ms Le Pen, Mr Macron has continued to attempt to demonstrate how being part of the bloc is better than being out of it.

He has vowed to make France an even bigger voice, and used his presence in the trade talks to complain about fishing rights post-Brexit in British waters.

Yet, his involvement caused Irish fishermen to turn on Mr Macron, arguing the new pact over fishing between the UK and EU demonstrated the “duplicitous nature of the protracted negotiations”.

Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation – Ireland’s largest fishermen’s representative body – added that the “repeated guarantees” made to those in the Irish trade had effectively been broken.

Fellow critics, skipper Seamus Molloy, also criticised France, telling Afloat.ie that the nation was “militant enough and seem to get what they want all the time”.

He added: “We have seen Macron intervene with Michel Barnier [the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator] and whatever happened between the two of them, this wasn’t on the table.

“The Irish seem to have been sacrificed across the board – we seem to have lost a large part of our mackerel quota and prawn quota.”

The trade deal will see the EU handing back 25 percent of its share of the catch in UK waters over a five-and-a-half year transition period.

Annual negotiations on some 100 shared stocks will take place from 2026.

Although some in France are opposed to Frexit, a poll in May 2020, showed that around three in five people in the country said they didn’t trust Brussels.

The Jacques Delors Institute’s study indicated that the lack of trust in the EU rose by 10 points since Mr Macron was first elected in 2017.

Of those asked, 32 percent said they did trust the EU while the final 10 percent didn’t express an opinion.

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