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Eye on France: What Brexit might mean for France

Tough work: Teresa May trying to keep the Brexit ball rolling.
Tough work: Teresa May trying to keep the Brexit ball rolling. RFI

A report in business paper Les Echos suggests that the average French person is so lost in the twists and turns of the tragic cross-channel Brexit saga that they have lost sight of the very real dangers posed to France by the UK departure.


Les Echos says the French are lost in the fog, but don’t seem unduly perturbed.

An opinion poll in today's paper shows that 73 percent of those questioned are convinced that Brexit will have no impact whatsoever on their professional lives.

It is true, admits Les Echos, that most economic projections suggest that the brunt of Brexit will be borne by the UK. The Bank of England, for example, says a no-deal departure could cut cross-channel Gross Domestic Product by as much as 10 percent over the next 15 years.

But that, warns the business daily, is far from being the full story.

There is the question of the impact on property prices and salaries of all the returning rich kids who’ve been working in London financial circles and living in the lap of luxury. To say nothing of the commercial repercussions of cutting 66 million consumers off by tariff barriers.

The wisdom of the young

Young French workers are arguably the most lucid, with half of those in the 25-34 age group fearing that Brexit will affect them professionally. They worry about the impact on the job market, on a limitation of their nomadic lifestyle, and about the logic of international economic interdependence.

Les Echos turns the poll finding around to ask, if so few French are concerned about the UK’s departure, does that mean they were never really aware of any benefits due to the UK’s presence? And what lessons can be drawn from that speculation with barely eight weeks to go to the European parliamentary elections?

The French are at least as fed up with Mrs May’s mess as the rest of the world.

Forty-six percent want the separation finalised as soon as possible; 49 percent say they are prepared for lengthy negotiations leading to a smooth departure.

Les Echos says France is thus cut in two on a crucial European question. And not for the first time: there was the same roughly 50/50 yes/no divide in 1992 at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, and again in 2005 in the case of the referendum on the European Constitution.

Expect more of the same in the up-coming elections, says Les Echos.

The prospect of a sort of national stalemate is worrying, according to the financial paper, but at least it will help us to forget about the convulsions of the cross-channel Conservatives.

Which sounds like a good deal to me.

How much should we pay for our Yellow Vests?

Under the headline “Let’s tell the French people what the Yellow Vest protest movement has cost the country,” Les Echos carries an opinion piece by Roland Lescure of Emmanuel Macron’s ruling majority party, the Republic on the Move. The article will make the average gilet jaune hope that he or she doesn’t get a personalised bill.

Several of today’s papers note a government statement to the effect that the destruction by protestors of the vast majority of the 4,600 speed control radars on French roads has cost the exchequer 540 million euros. That’s the overall cost of repairing or replacing the machines, and the lost revenue from potential fines.

Le Figaro takes the story to a human level, reporting that the death toll on French roads has shot up again this year, after a dramatic decline in 2018. The road security authorities say the 17 percent increase in the number of accidental deaths is linked to the vandalism of the speed radars.

But, of course, the 19 weeks of Yellow Vest demonstrations, have done more than bang up a few speed radars.

According to the French MP Roland Lescure, the original protest was very rapidly taken over by violent parasites.

The result has been that some businesses have been completely destroyed, taking the life savings and the livelihood of the owners with them. Seventy-five thousand people either lost their jobs or were put on short time. That cost them 40 million euros, minimum. The number of part-time employees affected will never be calculated. The overall impact on economic growth is estimated at a loss of 4.5 billion euros. To say nothing of the ten billion freed up by the president fireman to put out the initial blaze.

Guess who's going to have to pay

Public property and services have suffered. The repairs will ultimately be financed by the taxpayer.

The police services supposed to protect all of us are worn out by weeks of violent confrontation. The courts are on overdrive

Then there’s the impact on France’s international image, with hotels, restaurants, travel and cultural sectors all seriously affected.

Roland Lescure thus wants a full audit, so that people will know who to blame when their tax bill has to be increased.

And to think, this all started because some people didn’t want to pay an extra 6.5 cents for a litre of diesel.

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