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Henry Newman @HenryNewman
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Why Macron sees himself as a Jedi warrior fighting the forces of populism across Europe and why this means France is proving the biggest block to a negotiated Brexit deal and therefore the biggest risk of No Deal - a thread 👇
1/ A Paris-based friend told me recently that Macron sees himself as a Jedi warrior, fighting the forces of darkness across Europe. He was explaining why France was proving the biggest block to a Brexit deal.
2/ Macron conflates Brexit & populism, genuinely believing that concessions for the UK in the negotiations would risk the Single Market's survival and thus the future of the EU.
3/ There are just weeks to find a way through on the Irish backstop, and No Deal is a real & growing possibility.

@JunckerEU recently called for both sides to “get away from this no-deal scenario....[which] wouldn’t be good for Britain or... the (European) Union”. He's right 👋
4/ No Deal would risk turning Brexit into a strategic shift. It would, almost by definition, mean relations had broken down between the UK and the EU, including with its major countries - above all France.
5/ If our relations had just acrimoniously collapsed, how would future British leaders justify, say, sending our helicopters to support French troops in their operations in the Sahel? Or in other theatres in Europe and beyond.
6/ We got a taste of this at Salzburg, where European leaders were perceived (in UK at least) to have deliberately humiliated Theresa May. Back in Downing St, the PM figuratively wrapped herself in 🇬🇧 flag & demanded respect. She turned a rebuff into a patriotic show of strength.
7/ Macron emerged as a “villain”, as French press reported he had led the EU to reject Chequers, echoing a previous rigid stance on Galileo. I noticed a shift, with even erstwhile Remain-minded friends complaining about his treatment of # UK & branding of Brexiteers as liars.
8/ One of the ironies of Brexit is that it comes when Britain’s relationship with France has rarely been closer, as defence, foreign policy & security establishment on both sides of Channel regularly attest. Brexit need not - but it could - shake that relationship to its core.
9/ This matters because the UK is Europe's major intelligence player, & along with France, the premier military + development power. Because so much of our Brexit debate revolves around trade, we often neglect the wider implications of No Deal for security & foreign policy
10/ When President Macron appeared on @MarrShow , he called for the UK to have a bespoke relationship with the EU between Single Market membership and a free trade deal - precisely what he was so quick to dismiss at Salzburg.
11/ The only Brexit options from the EU side at present are a free trade deal for just part of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) or a relationship even closer than Norway’s (with a Customs Union as well as the Single Market).
12/ The latter (Norway plus) wouldn't work for the long term, as even a senior Elysée source acknowledged to me. Dividing the UK (Canada for just Great Britain not N Ireland) would be unacceptable to any British leader. So there's an impasse.
13/ France's strategy so far has been to deepen UK-Fr bilateral relations, and seek ways to incorporate the UK post-Brexit, for example with a new military crisis force outside EU structures. This may pay off if a deal is secured.
14/ But the overall relationship will surely be damaged if negotiations collapse, especially if France is seen as prime culprit & trying to tempt away British business (as if economic success is zero-sum game). Already there are reports of "Blame the Frogs" strategy in Whitehall
15/ Anglo-French relations have always been a case of "je t' non plus". But the next few weeks could determine their course for years to come.

16/ France is playing Brexit hardball - with ministers adopting Theresa May’s line that No Deal is better than a bad deal. While the UK & EU could clearly weather No Deal economically, the long-term fallout for security and defence cooperation across Europe could be profound.
17/17 Original article here 👇

Macron thinks he is a Jedi fighting the dark forces of Brexit…
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