Sunday, November 20, 2016

EU: What happens if Le Pen wins

The Guardian has an article where it quotes Farage saying that Le Pen will comfortably make it to the second (and final) round in the French presidential elections in 2017. And while he is not predicting a victory for her, he says she could win. First of all, Farage did not predict the outcome of the UK ref and the US elections, he simply made his wishes predictions and they happened to come through.

Now, of course it is reasonable to say that Le Pen will make it to the second round and such thing will not be the first time for a Front National candidate. What usually happens then is that the rest rally behind the other candidate, that is how Shirac got elected some years ago after all. But let's assume that the Brexit-Trump wave carries Le Pen to the presidency in 2017. What then? Let's think it through.

Well, like Trump and UK Leavers, Le Pen is anti-immigration. Like Leavers, she is anti EU. And of course anti-Euro.

Unlike the UK, Germany and Spain, in France the president has executive powers. But the election is for president not for the Parliament.

Le Pen is not simple. If she gets elected, the shockwave will be enough of an achievement, it will rock Europe and the world, for many a trifecta after the UK and the US. But Le Pen's government will not have a majority in Parliament. So what is she likely to do?

She may call for a national election, I am sure not she has the power, but let's assume she does.Is it likely that FN will get a majority of the Parliament (Assembly) seats? Unlikely.

The French populous only narrowly approved the EU Treaty of Maastricht and it rejected the EU Constitutional Treaty in 2005. So there is enough euroscepticism in the country, fear of terrorism and relatively high unemployment.

But let's take the worse case scenario first. Let's assume Le Pen either decides to take France out of the EU or calls for a referendum on EU membership. Let's also assume that the decision is Frexit. Article 50 will have to be triggered in this case too.

So, an EU without France! Sounds like the end. Or not? Without the UK and France, there go two of the three biggest members. There goes one of the main reasons the EC was created in the first place. But with some 390 mio inhabitants the EU26 will still be the third largest entity in the world after China and India. Its Single Market will still be potent. The largest members will be Germany, Spain and Poland. The French army will be gone so army will have to be developed. 18 of the 26 members will be Euro members. German may become the working language, with or without English, thus making Volker Kauder (CDU) happy.

Le Pen's France will probably go for a Hard Brexit although there is no indication that anti-immigration extends to EU nationals as was the case in the UK, thus maybe there will be room for a Norway type of deal.

Now assuming again that Le Pen wins, there will be six month period until the German national elections. It is probable that Le Pen does not merely want France to leave the EU but also wants the EU to dissolve, at least in its present form. In that case, she may play a hand that helps AfD in Germany. The result: Uncertainty. Nerve wracking spin. Divide and rule.

Another soft scenario is that Len Pen takes France out of the Euro and Schengen, satisfy her voters, but remains, for now, in the EU.And makes everyone's life difficult.

Interesting times and remember the Chinese curse.

What the EU needs to do is be firm. As it has with the UK. With 28 members the EU can afford to. An EU without eg free movement would not make sense. Let's not forget that in the current EU to live in another member state you have to get a job, start your own firm or work as self employed or show you have the means not to be a burden to that state, it's not like the US.

WTO. Will then the US, the UK and France try to change WTO rules? Well, maybe Trump and Le Pen would like to, but there is no indication May wants to, after all she wants to make the UK a champion for free trade.

Immigration: Le Pen may simply push for an end to the EU's stance on refugees. Many people in the EU28 currently blame Merkel for the current "liberal" policy.

What can pro EU circles do during the phase from now until the French elections? Well, one way is to point out what could happen if Le Pen wins, so French voters won't have the illusions British ones had. Could that backfire? It could, but what's the alternative? "You have nothing to fear but fear itself". The EU has been too political for a very long time, too willing to accommodate diverging views by members (not public opinion), the result has been delay in evolution and many weird Treaties, ie full of illogical compromises, that later had to be fixed.

Of course the EU would be better off with the UK and France. But an EU that knows what it is and what it wants is an EU that it makes sense to belong to. A wishy-washy EU may appear more democratic but is it? There has been enough spin about unelected EU offcials, "Brussels", and EU directives and regulations. With 28 members, soon 27, the EU can well afford to lose some, as long as it is clear where it is going. And it has to make sense, no "punishment", just cause and effect. Right now, it does not. A full EU makes sense. With 27, 26 or less. Probably one large state as a member is necessary and that is Germany. One could even argue that in theory the EU could even survive, with some changes, even without any of the big three, but that is pure theory, let's look at reality.

France can stay or leave, it's up to France to decide. But Europe has paid the price for fuzzy solutions, in its long history. So voters next spring have to be clear what they vote for.

Le Pen should be thoroughly questioned by the press as to what the stance will be if elected, no fuzz.

It should be noted that it is not up to the European Commission to tell the French people what would happen if France decides to leave. It is up to the other members, their politicians and media. And you, the European, in social media. When you want to leave a flatshare you do not bring the place down. And I should note this is not just Merkel's job or the FAZ, it is a job for all leaders of the 26 or at least most of them (surely some of the Visigrad 4 current leaders would love a Le Pen victory). The EU's future is everyone's job, not just Germany's. That should be clear.

People in France should be made aware that voting for Le Pen is not a protest vote (same for AfD but will come back to that). A protest vote would be to vote for a minor candidate, Le Pen is not. One could even vote for Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck on the ballot, that's protest.

The message should be "Dear French friends, if you vote for Le Pen that means you want out of the EU, hence we shall miss you but Adieu".

1) What happens if Len Pen gets elected and says: We are not leaving the EU and the Euro, but we want a different refugee policy.
2) What happens if AfD gets 20% in the German elections. We shall look into that too.
3) What happens if Austria elects the ultra right president. We shall cover that too.
4) One lesson from Brexit is that the 2 years in Article 50 is too long.

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