Brexit Musings (14): Emmanuel Macron – Jupiter Or Icarus?


He’s quite articulate, isn’t he? – Andrew Marr

French president, Emmanuel Macron’s television interview, broadcast on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, was nothing short of impressive. Macron showed a degree of confidence and self-belief, that were quite bewildering – especially if you consider that he was speaking to Andrew Marr, in English. From a linguistic point of view, the number of grammatical mistakes that he made, during the interview, was kept to a minimum, and nothing could be said about his accent. I wouldn’t have done any better – apart from my Kilburn accent, that is. Under the extreme pressure of a television interview, I would probably have spoken Frenglish, as I used to do as a kid. Some might say that he is being paid to perform but, nonetheless, for someone who has come from nowhere, to take the French political landscape by storm – and possibly the EU, at the same time – this is quite a feat.

Tick the Box, or save the money

Macron made it quite clear that the UK would not be treated as a “extra-special” partner, even in view of its long-lasting relationship with the EU, without “ticking the box” – i.e. accepted the four freedoms that come with the single market, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It all reminds me of a dreadful TV game, called Take Your Pick, where contestants had to choose between going away with the prize money, or gambling their winnings by opening a box that potentially contained a booby prize.

Whilst he deeply regretted the UK’s decision to leave – a decision that could still be reversed – the only solution for the City of London to retain its EU passport for financial services (i.e. full access to the single market) would be to pay for the privilege of being a Norway look-alike. Well, that would really go down well with the Brexiteers, wouldn’t it? Of course, only time will tell what comes out of the deal – if deal, there is – and I would be surprised if money didn’t have the final say, in the matter.

Concerning the Brexit vote, Emmanuel Macron gave a very sound and impartial explanation of why it occurred. For Macron, too many citizens were left on the touchline of the hard and unforgiving free market game. He also admitted that if a referendum had taken place in France, the result might have been similar to that of the UK. I agree, with the small difference, that the percentages would have been reversed. The Brits have had this allergy for Europe, for years, and will take any excuse (globalisation is a good one), to get out of the drafty room. Macron also alluded to the fact that the referendum was such a simple “yes/no” answer, for such a complicated question. The referendum should have been much more constructive, and have asked the Brits how they wanted to change the way that the EU functions. Now, now, Makkers, have you been reading my blog, without me knowing? The president of France agrees with me, that a little bit of the old Socratic wisdom wouldn’t have gone amiss, as I so briefly pointed out, after the referendum. This brings me brilliantly on to a little bit of criticism of my potential political hero.

Before you accuse me of not saying anything bad about the man I voted for, not once, but twice, last year, I will criticize him, courtesy of the Ancient Greeks, and the Romans.

Where eagles dare

Rumours have it, that Emmanuel Macron is related to the Roman “God of the Gods”, Jupiter – the pasta equivalent of the feta cheese prodigy, Zeus. Jupiter represented the fearlessness of the Roman army, and dominated Roman politics. Decisions taken by the Senate were not considered legitimate, without his judgment and approval. Being the patron of oaths and treaties, no political action was carried out without his judgment. This is the God whom you would rather have on your side, than against you – not least because he flies around with a thunderbolt in his trouser pocket. 

French presidents have a strange relationship with the Gallic political establishment. It is well-known, in French politics, that “le président préside, et le gouvernement gouverne” (the president presides, and the government governs). It may seem rather strange, but once the presidential candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, in the second round of the presidential election, he gets transported into the upper stratosphere of French politics and, not only distances himself from the bread and butter of daily politics, but also from the very people who put him there, in the first place. French presidents forget about the ordinary voter, for the simple reason that they have other prerogatives. In the 70’s, Valery Giscard d’Estaing was too busy accepting diamonds from African dictators, whilst François Mitterrand was emulating Egyptian Faroes, by constructing pyramids. Jacques Chirac was elected for a second term, with the biggest margin of victory in the history of the Fifth republic. You cannot blame him for thinking that he could spend his time doing other things. Nicholas Sarcozy probably thought that being president, and having time on his hands, was a good excuse to take up jogging. As for François Hollande, he is the exception, proving that the French presidency is not suited for a very ordinary man.

The EU is blessed with Emmanuel Macron, half-man, half-God. He is a true hero, whom the ancient Greeks would have worshiped, and made statues, to honour him. He has risen from the earth, carries the departed souls of Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis XIV, and now presides in the heavens, as Jupiter. He is steering the destiny of Europe, preaching for the end of freedom without cohesion, and the end of the free market without rules. He is advocating a new, protective, and convergent, Europe.

But Macron must be careful, and listen to his people. His popularity has already taken a sharp fall, in the months following the presidential election – a fall, unprecedented in French presidential history. In the same way that he was swept to power, he could just as easily be swept away, in a Mistral wind of discontent. If he does fall from grace, Macron would be more related to Icarus, than Jupiter. Icarus was the son of Daedalus, a gifted Athenian craftsman, who had built the infamous labyrinth of Crete. They were both imprisoned in the labyrinth. To escape, Daedalus made two sets of wings, consisting of feathers and wax. Icarus was warned about the dangers of wax, and that he must follow the trail of his father. He would not listen and, giving in to the ecstasy of heights and power, flew too close to the sun. The wax melted, and the wings disintegrated. Icarus, trying desperately to flap his bare arms, fell into the sea.

The French may have elected a God, but they can bring him down to earth, whenever they want. The interesting thing is that, Emmanuel Macron knows this only too well.