Expert View

Macron echoes De Gaulle on following the rules

by Denis MacShane | 19.01.2018

Denis MacShane is a former Minister of Europe and was a Labour MP for 18 years.

“Be my guest.”  With these chilling words Emmanuel Macron has spelt out as brutally as Charles de Gaulle did in 1963 that the UK either lives under the common laws of Europe or the UK goes its own separate way. That means no more automatic access for the 80% of the British economy based on services – especially the big profit centres of the City.

Neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn have been able to find the words to express the core truth the French president spelt out yesterday, that if the UK  wants “access to the single market, including the financial services, be my guest but it means you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge the European jurisdiction.”

In January 1963 De Gaulle also said that “England asks in turn to enter [the Common Market], but on her own conditions”. De Gaulle heaped praise on Britain, on Churchill, on the UK’s place in history, but made clear that the Common Market, the predecessor to the EU’s single market, had made difficult sacrifices to draw up a common rule book, a set of laws, that either had to be accepted by Britain or Britain would stay outside.

It took a further ten years before a British prime minister, Edward Heath, and a number of younger Labour MPs led by John Smith who voted against the cynical fence-sitting of their party leadership, campaigned successfully to enter Europe.

De Gaulle like Macron insisted Britain would remain a partner of France on a bilateral basis, notably on defence and on major Anglo-French projects like the supersonic jet airliner Concorde, which was then on the drawing board.

In British mythology De Gaulle’s veto, or “Non”, to Harold Macmillan’s 1962 bid to enter the European Economic Community was an attack against “les Anglo-Saxons”. But to read his full 1,800 word statement there is an enormous respect even affection for Britain, or l’Angleterre as the French call us.

But the General would not accept that Britain could live half-in and half-out, taking advantage of some rules and laws but refusing to abide by others.

Sixty years later, De Gaulle’s successor, Emmanuel Macron, the ninth president of France’s fifth Republic, has again spelt out, en clair, that the claims by Theresa May, David Davis, and Jeremy Corbyn that Britain  can keep access to the single market but not live by common laws that other countries accept is not tenable.

The burbling nonsense from David Davis that Britain could have a deal with the EU that he calls “Canada, plus, plus, plus” – i.e. free trade in goods and special access for financial and other service sectors where the UK has a balance of trade surplus – were slapped down by Macron.

If Britain wanted a Canada-type deal “There should be no hypocrisy in this respect. It would not work and we would destroy the single market,” Macron said. De Gaulle could not have put it better.

But as after January 1963, there were many in London who refused to believe a French president means what he says. The reaction of the City of London Corporation’s policy chair Catherine McGuinness was to insist on  “an ambitious free-trade agreement covering services as well as goods,” she told the BBC.  When will City executives listen to the President of France and stop being an echo chamber for Brexiters like Davis and Liam Fox?

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    5 Responses to “Macron echoes De Gaulle on following the rules”

    • It is becoming a sad fact that the UK needs to experience some serious economical problems as a result of the freedom seeking Brexit-buccaneer attitude that rules the nation at present, before issues with Europe will be seen for what they are: you are go it together or you become irrelevant and some other force in the world will gobble you up. This is not project fear, it is project reality and the initial results are already becoming clear.

    • This is a great article and once again shows that the British live in cloud coockooland and really don’t understand after all this time that when a European says something he or she actually means it. Indeed it is a tragedy of biblical proportions that so many millions of people in the UK, in Europe and across the world are at the mercy of a bunch of utter selfish idiot Tories in British government .

    • ” … the General would not accept that Britain could live half-in and half-out, taking advantage of some rules and laws but refusing to abide by others.” Yet the UK is not in the eurozone or Schengen, perhaps a potential source of problems which de Gaulle would never have permitted.

    • I am amazed at the number of ‘facts’ these people come up with. Walt would have loved then in Disneyland is all I can say.