London - Prime Minister Theresa May said that the victory in the French presidential election of a staunch defender of the European Union is why she needs an “equally strong mandate” to be able to fight Britain’s corner in Brexit talks.
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron could be bad news for May. He arrived at his victory rally in Paris on Sunday night to the sound of Ode to Joy, the EU’s anthem, He once described Brexit as a “crime” and last week said it would be no “walk in the park.”
Such words, and the prospects of France talking a harder line in talks, are not lost on May as she seeks a landslide victory in June 8 elections.
“Now yesterday, a new French president was elected,” May said at a campaign stop in northwest London. “He was elected with a strong mandate which he can take as a strong position into the negotiations. The UK, we need to make sure we’ve got an equally strong mandate and an equally strong negotiating position.”
She added that “every vote for me and my team will strengthen my hand in those Brexit negotiations.” Macron’s chief economic adviser, Jean Pisani-Ferry, said earlier that his boss will be tough on the UK in the pending Brexit talks although he will not seek to exact punishment and has no appetite for negotiations to end without a deal.
“I don’t think anybody has an interest in a hard Brexit,” he told BBC radio. “At the same time, we have divergent interests on some aspects of the negotiation, so they will be tough negotiations and he will be tough.”
Macron has suggested a Brexit bill for as much as €80bn could be presented to the British, mentioned rethinking customs controls between the UK and France and urged bankers to relocate from London to Paris.
Still, Macron’s defeat of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen means the EU will be a more stable negotiating partner for the British to engage with and he has spoken of the importance of maintaining France’s “special relationship” with the UK
“There is a mutual interest in keeping the prosperity that exists, that has been built over the years,” said Pisani-Ferry. Macron also wants to retain “the security and defense relationship which is extremely important in the kind of environment we are in, which is a very dangerous environment.”
May spoke to Macron after his win and “reiterated that the UK wants a strong partnership with a secure and prosperous EU once we leave,” according to her office.