After the Brexit vote in the UK there is a lot of speculation concerning the next countries to leave the European Union. France is being repeatedly named in those lists. There are several reasons why that will never happen.
The European Union embodies the French political dreamland
Unlike the United Kingdom, France has no close relation to classical liberalism, individual liberty or limited government: all their trust is put into government, whether it be related to dealing with the housing situation, unemployment or lifestyle choices. The French are constantly woven in a net of comforting (yet economically devastating) socialism, in which case a political union that tries to regulate them even more cannot find too much opposition in the country.
Adding to this love of redistribution, France loves centralisation. If politicians could coordinate from Paris the construction of tunnels in the Alps they most likely would, but running regions, districts and unified municipalities that are effectively powerless helps satisfying the need of the political class to offer well-paid careers to their members. What more could they want than an enormous political body with numerous institutions in which’s maze of unaccountability you will get lost easily?
While British politicians are fairly unpopular in Brussels, French MEPs make up the core of the political groups and their messages, especially those who have pushed political integration and centralisation. It is a roundup to their political career, their last honour or their last chance to be considered real statesmen.
The EU is a bully
The Brexit reactions from EU officials only prove what the general trend of the European Union is: join our club or we will bully you. After creating a single market and restricting trade policy of its members, then forcing those who did not give in to accept all the rules (EEA), they will now get the fear machine rolling to prevent other countries from leaving, especially one of their key players.
Semantics are key: “leaving Europe”. Europe as a continent (physical) is quite different from the European Union (political), but equating the two makes every potentially defecting country feel the effect of ‘physically’ drifting away. It’s the playground bully telling his friends not to play with one particular kid so that he obeys by the rules.
The French are impressionable with this rhetoric. As said before, French people have great trust in government (even though they make sure to never like their current one), and have no notion of evaluating if more government does good or harm. The same fear-tactic used by the Remain campaigners wouldn’t work on the ordinary French voter, all they need is a charismatic leader who says that he will engage honest reforms. I kid you not, they believe that every time.
The biggest factor in this instance is the press. While the British press has been, to put it quite frankly, enormously critical of the EU, the French press doesn’t feel this need at all. In the UK the press pushes the parties, in France the parties push the press. News sources are either state-run or affiliated to one of the two main parties, of which both praise the European Union above all else.
Remember the last referendum?
In 2005 the French electorate said No to the EU constitution. The reason for that was that French voters feared that the EU would impose ‘a neoliberal economic model’ and reduce the standards of social security in the member states (like that would ever happen). Former president Nicolas Sarkozy then instigated together with other European leaders this backroom deal called the treaty of Lisbon, but made it quite clear that there would not be a vote on this treaty at all. The Dutch and French failure taught the EU a lesson: referenda aren’t quite so good.
France is the next Greece
This is by far the most important part of this argument that absolutely needs to be made. France was a strong voice for solidarity in the Irish and Greek bailout, with support from the public, because the EU will be France’s best insurance policy in the next crisis. While all of Europe was experiencing economic advancement through free market-policies, the socialism of François Mitterrand brought France to its knees, until they had to privatise state-run companies such as banks, TV stations or energy providers.
This time around France doesn’t want to go down that path: no reforms, no apologies. And since the European Central Bank must deal with the consequences of France’s drain on the Euro, the rest of the continent will have the bailout the République, that even outside of a crisis almost reaches a public debt level of 100% of GDP.
Vive la France. Although that might not be for long.
Picture are Creative Commons.
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