Barnier 'distinguishing himself from Macron' says Professor Shields
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Speaking to Express.co.uk, James Shields, Professor of French politics at Warwick University explained that given France’s role as a premier leader of the EU project it is unsurprising that no candidate is using their Presidential campaign to run on a ticket of pulling France out the bloc, despite evident support for a so-called ‘Frexit’.
Professor Shields explained how a prime example of this issue has been seen with Michel Barnier who, at a rally in Nimes in September, demanded that France must abandon both the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to reclaim its sovereignty.
But despite the out of character comments from the former EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, which Professor Shields described as “certainly surprising” and “shocking”, he stressed that in the context of running for the French presidency “this all makes sense”.
Professor Shields explained: “He is addressing a broad centre-right audience that goes from ardent Europeanists to Eurosceptics.
“Barnier knows there is strong support in France for the EU. But there is also a lot of impatience and frustration with how the EU works.”
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Professor Shields added how there is also strong support amongst French voters for a clampdown on immigration, especially for illegal immigration, and Mr Barnier is also tapping into this with his election campaign.
But Professor Shields stressed that despite appearing to be a move towards a potential ‘Frexit’, this is in fact no the case.
He explained: “Barnier is distinguishing himself from Macron, who is an arch Europeanist, by calling for a more critical engagement with the EU.”
The French political expert went further in this explanation, saying how a ‘Frexit’ is out of the question for all candidates, going so far as to say that no matter who is elected president “France will go on being the driving force of the EU with Germany.”
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And in an honest analysis, he clarified how “no serious candidate for the presidency is calling for France to relinquish that role”.
The Professor even highlights how right-wing and Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen has abandoned her calls to quit the Euro and hold a Frexit referendum.
He said this has been despite proposals from the National Rally leader in 2017 which promised both moves.
Professor Shields explained these have been scrapped because they are “vote losers, not votes winners, in France.”
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President Macron currently has roughly 23 percent of the prospective vote, down from 24 percent on October 11, in the run-up to the French election.
At the same time, Ms Le Pen is rallying support: She has made a one percent gain over the same period, rising from 16 percent to 17 percent – though this comes after dipping significantly in recent weeks, having previously been neck-and-neck with the premier.
Despite this, Politico’s analysts expect President Macron to be on course for a second term as President, with a predicted 56 percent of the vote, with Ms Le Pen pulling in an estimated 44 percent.
Ms Le Pen is currently struggling for favour as well, as Politico puts her four points behind her position in 2017. During her second bid for the presidency, she had support from a projected 21.3 percent of French voters.
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