Frexit after Brexit?

by Berk Bektas

We all remember the morning after Britain’s E.U referendum – shock and horror, or delight and joy, depending which way you voted. Brexit certainly shook up British politics, but it also had a major impact in Europe and the World. It showed the crumbling trust in the British political establishment by a growing amount of people who felt disenfranchised and, as Michael Gove put it, people who “have had enough of experts.” Despite nearly all of the political establishment, from former Tory leaders and PM’s Major and Cameron, and Labour leaders Kinnock, Blair, Miliband, and Corbyn – even the very charismatic and popular President Obama urging and pushing a Yes vote, the people said No.

Whether this helped fuel or contributed to Trump’s shock victory some months later in the Presidential elections, again despite most of the U.S’s political establishment campaigning against him, including members of his own Party, we can only guess.

France is already having its own political shake up. The current and soon to depart President of France, François Hollande, has been, according to polls, the most unpopular sitting President in the 5th Republic’s history. It has led to an utter collapse of confidence in his political party, the Parti-Socialiste (PS), considered the Labour Party of France. It’s probably why he decided not to run again in this year’s presidential election – another first. The Party’s candidate is Benoît Hamon, who is constantly trailing in the polls, and has had no hope, continuously falling in the polls.

It has been a rollercoaster of a campaign, and whatever happens will change the political landscape and status quo of France and French politics. So far, the front runner is Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far-right Front National’s (FN). She is a major Eurosceptic, and is seemingly constantly set to win the first round of votes, but to lose the second round, just as her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen did in the 2002 presidential election. Other proposed policies include a tightening of boarders and to revive the French Franc, scrapping the Euro.

For most of the time, her contender was the Les Républicains (LR) candidate François Fillon, who has been dubbed the Thatcher of France; a staunch Catholic (which is a bit new in French politics as France is a Secular country), he promises sweeping privatisation, cut in taxes and tightening certain benefits; he also is pro-E.U, but allegations of paying his Welsh wife Penelope Fillon for a fake job with money from the public purse saw a dip in the polls.

Enter Emmanuel Macron, the former PS Minister under Hollande, he left the party to form his own, calling it En Marche! (EM), dubbing it neither left or right, but a centrist party, with what they consider a new alternative to traditional French politics. A former banker, he is staunchly pro-European and proved popular in the opinion polls, sometimes even overtaking Le Pen for the first round. All seemed well for the E.U as whoever would win the second round wouldn’t want a Frexit.

However, after debating took place amongst Presidential candidates, a new figure came out of nowhere. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate of La France Insoumise (FI), he is a die-hard left-wing veteran of French politics, he makes Corbyn look like a liberal, and has shot up in the polls after seemingly out-performing other contenders in recent TV-debates. Polls have him currently fighting for 3rd place with Fillon, but his momentum could push him even further. Typical of the far left, he wants to increase public spending, funding it by having heavy taxes on the wealthiest; he also wants sweeping nationalisation, the retirement age to be pushed down to 60 years of age – the usual of a hard left-winger. He also wants to renegotiate France’s treaties with the E.U and pull France out of NATO. Pushing other proposed policies asides, could these renegotiations lead to France tearing up the Euro, and ultimately the E.U? It seems that if Mélenchon wins, it would lead to another crisis in the Euro as the economic shake-up of one of it’s key member states (France), could potentially lead the Euro to crash and for key and vital investors to leave France. Leaving NATO would be damaging enough for Franco-German relations. And say if Le Pen and Mélenchon wins the first round and Le Pen wins the second round and becomes President? It’s not laughable – polls suggest Mélenchon would win by 57% – 43%, not exactly a landslide victory, but notably hard to push the other way.
Whatever the result, on the 23rd April this 4-way race will not only have the French people biting their finger nails, but the E.U and beyond.

by Berk Bektas

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