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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A Macron-Merkel Plot to 'Destroy' London?

The world has been so intrigued by the bizarre conduct of President Trump that far too little attention has been paid to the oddity of the French president. Mr Trump has been ridiculously intrusive in sharing his rapidly-changing views with the media and in the Twittersphere: M Macron has been tight-lipped to an unusual degree; and there have been many reports of his contempt for the media. He has been reported as saying - to his own staff - that there is no point in him giving interviews and press conferences because his intellect is so far superior to the norm that people simply will not understand his statements and his answers to questions. His path to office has been engineered by the old establishment of the 'higher schools', who experienced the agony of the Hollande regime and were determined to seize upon the national consensus that politics had reached a nadir. Thus they presented a new sort of candidate from a new generation: a man with few friends and a most peculiar private life. His allies engineered a parliamentary landslide, and he appears to be in an unassailable position with a clear popular mandate - to be 'different' - backed by a parliamentary majority.

With these assets, he is attempting - as half a dozen of his predecessors did - to attack the established position of the trade unions and of the farming interest, and to try to change the culture of work generally in France. Given the fact that recorded French 'productivity' is very much greater than the British, and not far inferior to the German, it is unclear why he thinks that such disruption is desirable or necessary; but he is having a go anyway: and it fills column inches in the press.

His career record includes a few years with a major international bank, where he greatly refined his spoken English and learned how far ahead of French practice in banking and finance are the systems in new York and London; and how much bigger are the financial markets in those centres - and in Singapore - than in Paris. He also gained a perspective an the depth of support that the London finance sector has, from a huge array of specialist lawyers and a raft of support professions such as actuaries, arbitrators, loss assessors and adjusters. Some English-speaking critics reckon that he has developed a profound envy of these markets, and that he came into office with a determination to push Paris as a rival to those centres even though the ancillary trades there are massively under-developed.

Doomsters in London have now come up with the idea that he has decided to use the Brexit opportunity to diminish London massively: and that he has enlisted Angela Merkel and the gnomes of Frankfurt to his plot. This is seen as the hidden agenda behind the determination of a loyal, ambitious and deeply egocentric Frenchman, Michel Barnier, to use his role as EU negotiator with the UK to delay and diminish whatever settlement the UK can achieve with the EU. This sort of conspiracy theory can be very powerful in times of massive uncertainty; and the absence of any such plot  - as with any negative argument in politics - is ultimately impossible to prove.

Mrs Merkel grew up, graduated and worked in the German Democratic Republic, and presumably had to learn Marxist dogma sufficiently to be allowed into university and into a research post. There is very little evidence that her education since 1990 has included any significant familiarisation with serious political economy. Her chancellorship has been supported by strong and well-informed ministers who have dealt with economic affairs and with business: she has read appropriate speeches, but no significant initiative has been attributed to her [other than the catastrophic decision to open Europe to mass immigration, which will mark her rule throughout future history]. It is possible, but improbable, that she has actually committed to any scheme systematically to attempt to smash the London market which - as is being stressed today - is an irreplaceable asset to world trade that even Germany and France rely upon heavily.

As a boy growing up in Lancashire, I became used to hearing older people say: "The French will never forgive us for saving them in two world wars", whereupon a minority said: "the First World War, yes: they don't like admitting that they needed us. But in the Second they hated us for disrupting their comfortable collaboration with the Nazis: remember, we bombed them and fought our way through France. DeGaulle was very much in a minority until the Americans put him in power."

It would be no surprise to discover that Macron grew up surrounded by the French mirror-image of such sentiments.

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