After the government’s doom-mongering was exposed by an anonymous tip to Newsnight, Prime Minister Theresa May has cut her holiday short to plead with French President Emmanuel Macron over his Brexit stance.
The Times reported yesterday that May has cut her summer holiday short to attend a summit in France, where she’ll ask, beg, and plead with Macron to soften his stance on Brexit. OK, maybe I’m being a bit tough there – but let’s be honest, May knows how rubbish her negotiations have been so far, and an ally in Europe is pretty much her only hope of pulling off some kind of Brexit by March.
May plans on attending a meeting on Friday, where she’ll ask Macron to reconsider his objections to security cooperation once Britain leaves the EU. She’ll also be asking France if they can provide reassurances that they’ll assist Britain in securing a trade deal for the City of London, which has been resisted by Michel Barnier.
In April, Chief Brexit Negotiator for the EU, Michel Barnier, said that the EU doesn’t need the City of London and that he will not reward May’s "pleading" for a special deal.
At a meeting of finance ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria, Barnier explained:
“Some argue that the EU desperately needs the City of London, and that access to financing for EU27 business would be hampered – and economic growth undermined – without giving UK operators the same market access as today… This is not what we hear from market participants, and it is not the analysis that we have made ourselves.”
If May can’t get Macron on board, then I can’t see how Barnier’s going to change his mind. If he wants to punish the UK, or get Brexit overturned, then he couldn’t do much better than give majority-Remain-voting London angry over the lack of a trade deal.
The upcoming summit is part of a wider plot by May to go around the leaders of the EU, to take on the European Commission’s hard line against her Chequers customs proposals.
It doesn’t look like it’ll work though. The Times says that a senior Élysée advisor explained that the PM shouldn’t have high expectations from the summit. The newspaper was told:
“It is very difficult for Macron…It is not in his gift to offer compromises – only the commission can do that. He will stand firm with the commission”.
May isn’t the first person from the cabinet to visit France in hope of changing their minds, either. Business Secretary Greg Clark visited last Tuesday, and Chancellor Philip Hammond visited on Monday. On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt visited Paris, and today the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will be paying his own visit. It seems like our struggling government sees France as the weakest link, but Europhile Macron seems unlikely to be interested in helping the EU knock down the first EU-exit Domino.
It’s embarrassing to know our government is scrambling to try and influence the weakest, instead of taking on the monsters in the EU head-on. Bring on No Deal.