French President Emmanuel Macron during the Ceremony for the National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade in Paris on Tuesday
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All hail Emmanuel Macron, the newly re-elected French President and self-styled emperor of the European Union, who this week proposed a sweeping redrawing of the Continent’s political map.

In his Europe Day speech in Strasbourg on Monday, he grandly proposed a new ‘political community’ that would give non-EU countries a closer relationship with the EU but one that fell short of actual membership.

A grown-up EU for the likes of France and Germany, and an EU-lite for the wannabes (Turkey, Albania, Moldova, Ukraine etc) and has-beens (Britain).

And like those Japanese soldiers who fought on long after World War II had ended, the Remoaners quickly emerged from the jungles of their social network echo chambers to hail the benevolent wisdom of Monsieur Macron.

Here he was extending an olive branch to wayward Britain, offering a route back from the Brexit wilderness into the loving embrace of Brussels.

‘Macron calls for a new European community — and Britain could join,’ ran breathless pro-EU headlines.

‘I love this Macron guy! Visionary and magnanimous,’ declared one tweet.

Let us be clear: this ‘olive branch’ is nothing of the kind. To quote a certain former British Prime Minister when confronted by EU demands for closer integration, our response to Macron’s apparent overtures should be: ‘No. No. No.’

French President Emmanuel Macron during the Ceremony for the National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade in Paris on Tuesday

French President Emmanuel Macron during the Ceremony for the National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade in Paris on Tuesday

Mischief

Because this has all the hallmarks of classic Macron mischief-making, disguising a cynical attempt to lay the groundwork for Britain’s future return to the EU via the back door.

For were the UK to find itself governed by Labour (or a Labour-LibDem coalition), it is not too difficult to see how the ‘political co-operation’ Macron is calling for in ‘security… energy, transport, investment, infrastructure [and] the movement of people’ could slip into re-entry in all but name.

As for the timing, it could not be more ironic. Macron’s call for EU ‘reform’ so that ‘democratic European nations who adhere to our values’ can work better together is an apparent riposte to Russian aggression.

Yet it comes just as Brussels is again digging its heels in over the hated Northern Ireland Protocol, stoking a crisis in Stormont that threatens to destabilise peace in the Province.

How can anyone take Macron’s proposal seriously?

First of all, his ‘new European political community’ is completely undefined. Who will govern it? 

Who will pay for its inevitable bureaucrats, conferences, declarations and business-class air tickets? What powers would it have?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Macron pictured together prior to a meeting of the Group of Seven at NATO headquarters in Brussels in March

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Macron pictured together prior to a meeting of the Group of Seven at NATO headquarters in Brussels in March

Macron gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the Conference on the Future of Europe and the release of its report with proposals for reform on Tuesday

Macron gestures as he speaks during a press conference at the Conference on the Future of Europe and the release of its report with proposals for reform on Tuesday

Indeed, such vagueness could be deliberate: a way of keeping EU-hopefuls that Macron doesn’t care much about in a second-class waiting room, where they can be expected to wait for decades (or for ever) to be admitted to the inner circle.

Of course, in the meantime, all these nations will be expected to align themselves with European law and conform to EU regulation — without any voting power.

Nothing is clear but, then again, perhaps it was never intended to be. 

Perhaps the sole intention of Macron’s keynote address was to put Britain in its place as he drapes himself in Angela Merkel’s mantle as leader of the bloc.

This man is, after all, the master of the passive aggressive. For him, Brexit represents unpunished apostasy and, since the 2016 referendum, he has wasted no opportunity to make life difficult for his so-called allies across the Channel.

No one was more obstructive in the seemingly never-ending Brexit negotiation process than the French President. 

He was livid when Australia dared to secure its defence relations with Britain and the U.S. instead of France by signing the historic trilateral AUKUS nuclear submarine pact. 

He threatened retaliation, even recalling his ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia.

And who can forget the threat to sever Jersey’s energy supplies last May after Britain’s post-Brexit fishing rules infuriated French fishermen.

He has personally insulted our Prime Minister, reportedly calling Boris Johnson a ‘clown’ just last December.

But all of that now seems to have been forgotten. And why? Well, the benefits of Britain’s enormous economy to the EU have long played second fiddle to the ideological preoccupations of Paris and Berlin. 

Eurocrats were perfectly happy to see industry suffer so that the integrity of the market might be expensively protected.

Riff-raff

Now the cost of such pettiness has become apparent. Could Macron’s new ‘bloc’ actually represent a desperate attempt to achieve economic realignment? 

If so, then who is the real clown here?

Macron has positioned himself, along with the Germans, as the last of Vladimir Putin’s friends in Europe.

Even as Britain has maintained an air bridge of high-tech weapons to Ukraine, the EU has vetoed sanctions that would compromise the EU’s Faustian energy pact with Putin.

Indeed, Macron — who placed himself front and centre in a vainglorious attempt to broker peace with Putin in the early days of the Ukraine invasion — has yet to make the trip to Kyiv, something even the rock star Bono has achieved.

And French arms are playing no significant role in the Ukrainian defence efforts.

In truth, he is the little man of Europe and he continues to sing out of tune. His vision is for a more ‘co-operative’ Continent that continues to revolve around the Franco-German motor — no doubt with his own ego at the centre — exiling the riff-raff to the periphery.

But the problem is that many member states no longer agree with what was for decades the status quo. 

Brexit has already caused a ground-swell of anti-union sentiment in countries such as Poland and Hungary. The EU in 2022 is arguably more divided than at any time before.

Booing

Following last month’s French election, Downing Street had hoped for a reset in the strained London-Paris relationship. 

But it seems such hopes are misplaced. Macron and his inner circle are as viscerally anti-British as ever.

When he was re-elected last month, it was hardly by enthusiastic endorsement. He was the choice of fewer than a third of French voters in the first round and won the second only because Marine Le Pen — viewed by some commentators as ‘worse than Trump’ — was seen as the greater evil.

If the riotous booing from the crowds at last weekend’s usually-joyous French cup final in Paris was anything to go by, Macron faces tough challenges at home in the months and years ahead.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) and Macron make their way inside after inspecting an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on Monday

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) and Macron make their way inside after inspecting an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Chancellery in Berlin on Monday

His lofty plans for greater European ‘cooperation’ represent the over-reach of a leader under siege. Whatever it is Macron is selling here, Britain should not be buying.

In fact, there’s an even better word in French that would suffice: ‘Degage’. Translated politely, it might be rendered as ‘back off’.

We must see this for what it is: the latest plotting of a tin-pot Napoleon, obsessed by his own vision of a European state, and a politician who cannot understand that — even six years on — Brexit really did mean Brexit.

n Jonathan Miller is author of France, A Nation On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (Gibson Square). 

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