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Macron's Vision of 'the EU Project' Goes Down Well in Brussels

March 8, 2019 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, thinks he’s
discovered an antidote for populism. In a letter published across
Europe this week, the gilets jaunes-battered premier outlined his
vision “for European renewal” based on “freedom,
protection and progress”.

Reading his text, one is struck by two thoughts. First, how risky staying in the EU might have been
for the UK if leaders such as Macron get their way
. Second,
that a glaring omission is anything that would reverse
Europe’s lack of economic dynamism. The agenda is
stereotypically French: every perceived problem political, rather
than economic. The political solution, predictably, is “more
Europe”.

Truly, there are those who want an effective European state.
Much as latter-day free-traders see the EU as just a liberal trade
block, the ideological bent of the commission has always been
towards social and economic protections too.

That’s what makes Macron’s vision important —
it’ll have gone down a storm in Brussels. For Macron, the
problem with “the project” is not its stultifying
conformity, excessive regulation or even the euro (described,
laughably, as essential to resist “financial
capitalism”). No, the EU’s problem apparently is too
much economic freedom and too much openness to the outside world.
It’s perceived as a “soulless market,” when
really it should be bulwark against external threats.

Accordingly, Macron believes the forthcoming EU elections require a mandate
for more EU programmes and solidarity. That requires more
harmonisation, less competition, more EU-wide trade protectionism
and EU-level investment and control over everything from defence
and election watchdogs, through to external borders and asylum.

You wouldn’t know it from the letter, but EU-wide
unemployment still stands at 6.5pc, and 7.8pc for the eurozone.
Germany drags down the overall figure. In France, Italy and Spain,
unemployment rates are as high as 8.8pc, 10.5pc and 14.1pc. The
link between populism and economics is oft-overstated, but it
doesn’t seem crazy to think Italy and France might be less
politically tumultuous with more people in work and some semblance
of robust economic growth.

Macron, though, has nothing to say on either. “Europe
needs to look ahead to create jobs,” he claims. His solution?
Regulating the digital tech giants more heavily. Really, that is
his main policy proposal. The jobs of the future will flow, it is
implied, when Google, Amazon and Apple are forced to share their
data and algorithms or are hit with penalties for “unfair
competition”. The same applies to trade. Macron laments
Brexit as national retrenchment, but extols EU-wide retrenchment
instead.

We cannot “suffer in silence”, he mightily declares,
at the hands of those who do not respect European rules. We should
adopt “European preference” for some industries and
public procurement, while banning firms …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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