This evening sees the climax of France’s most divisive and bitterly contested election campaign in history. Emmanuel Macron faces off against Marine Le Pen, in a rendition of the battle that seems to structure Western political process with an inexorably growing prevalence: no longer the left against the right, but instead cosmopolitan globalism versus that protectionism of nationalist hue. On one side, stands Macron, the young and charismatic banker who has become the latest poster-boy of millennial universalism. Against him, Le Pen, the wily champion of revanchist authoritarianism. Whoever emerges the victor, their triumph will author much of the next decade of European history.
But what does it all mean for Britain? Perhaps the greatest irony of the Brexit vote that shook the world last summer was that, in setting ourselves on the path toward greater control, we have manacled our fate for the next several years to that of Europe more closely than ever before. Thankfully, all the evidence points to a Macron win: it has become somewhat voguish amongst the right to idolise Marine Le Pen, but, truthfully, there is little other than her election that could damage our country more.
With tempers frayed in our relationship with the EU of late, it’s easy to be drawn to the candidate who represents its antithesis. But this is against our national interest: a Le Pen presidency would cause immeasurable harm to our security, both economic and otherwise.
Marine Le Pen is staunchly Eurosceptic. Much of her campaign has rested on portraying her opponents as the self-interested vanguards of its moneyed elite. And yet this is why her candidacy poses such a threat to the interests of the United Kingdom. We have two years – less, now – to negotiate a favourable relationship with the European Union. But, should Le Pen be elevated to the Elysee Palace this Sunday, the European Union, already severely wounded by Brexit, would divert all its attention to preventing the French exit that would surely prove fatal.
Instead of engaging in the collaborative talks that will eventually replace the bravado and posturing, the Brussels machine, dedicated above all to its own perpetuation and endurance, would turn its attention to preventing Frexit, which surely would represent a greater threat to its survival than the failure to reach an agreement with Britain. The door would be slammed in our face before we could even say “croissant”.
Indeed, the European Union would be incentivised to make Brexit as damaging as possible, should Le Pen win out. Desperately trying to prevent France from embarking on any major repatriation of powers or attacks on the integrity of the European Union, it would be inimical to the interests of Brussels to give a single inch in any negotiations with the UK that it did find time for. A picture speaks a thousand words, and a series of them illustrating a desolated Brexit Britain would surely prove to teach France a lesson, should they appear on the front of Le Monde. The message would have to be explicitly clear: leaving the European Union will cause serious damage to your economy and society. And Britain would be the glamorous assistant with no choice but to assist as the example.
I am no supporter of the European Union. I find it dirigiste, backward, and nefariously undemocratic. However, any disdain I have for Brussels is exceeded by a desire for Britain to succeed. British supporters of Le Pen should ask themselves whether they have come to hate the EU more than they love Britain.