The spectre of a French referendum leading to FREXIT may seem unlikely or in some quarters an impossibility, but there is a growing movement within France who unsurprisingly are growing tired of the European Union and the single currency. In clinical terms economists and political commentators will readily dismiss the notion of a FREXIT since it would mean exiting the Euro and returning to what would inevitably be a heavily devalued Franc. Given that Germany is effectively on the hook for 95% of French debt it would also mean France would carry the weight of their national debt which coincidentally is also 95% of the country’s GDP. In those economists eyes, France has no future it is was to leave the European Union and the single currency.
French politicians are deeply divided on this matter. Unsurprisingly French President Francois Hollande is a staunch advocate of remaining inside the EU. Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front party, who has declared herself “Madame Frexit” has promised to hold an EU referendum within six months if she is elected in 2017. She asserts that in the wake of the Brexit victory many nations are now calling for such a referendum, something she refers to as “The Peoples Spring.” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left party Front de Gauche (FG), is also pushing for France to leave the EU. Both Le Pen and Mélenchon are set to stand on Eurosceptic platforms in the French presidential election in Spring 2017. Bruno Le Maire, a former secretary of state for European affairs, who intends to stand in the presidential elections has also called for a referendum on redefining the European project. When it comes to those elections it is entirely possible that there may be marriages of convenience to effect a desired result.
Recent polls suggest that 60% of French people view the EU unfavourably with over half of French voters wanting their own in/out referendum on EU membership. French Euroscepticism has been fuelled by the economic troubles of the Eurozone crisis and the migrant crisis in Calais and other parts of France. Le Pen’s party has capitalised on the fears about immigration and security concerns in the wake of the Paris and Nice attacks as well as dissatisfaction with France’s current economy.
Hollande has his own issues to deal with, both at home and abroad. In the aftermath of the BREXIT vote the rhetoric coming out of Berlin and Paris was very different. Hollande pressed for swift action to deter other nations dissenting whereas Merkel called for a calm and measured approach. Hollande inferred that there needed to be a cohesive response from France and Germany, whereas Merkel called for a collective European response.
Domestically Hollande has problems, not least that a mere 16% of French voters agree that Hollande is a good president. With such a poor approval rating it is no surprise that Hollande had no choice but to cede to pressure from within his own Socialist party to hold a primary next January to choose its presidential candidate.
Perhaps most surprising was the recent announcement by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he was throwing his hat into the ring and joining the Eurosceptic bandwagon. Sarkozy supports a French Referendum on its future in the EU. When asked about a potential FREXIT he said, “I believe that we should not be afraid of the people. If they do not believe in the European idea and it does not stand the test of a referendum, then it is not the right path.”
Whatever the outcome of the French Presidential Elections it is clear that rather like NATO, the EU is in its final death throes. There is deep resentment across France with regards to its economy policies with migrant and security issues figuring highly in many peoples minds particularly in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice. FREXIT seems an inevitability, one way or another. The mere survival of that Union might render the need for a vote superfluous.
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