By Gökhan Kurtaran
London briefing, May 8

 Who will be “tougher” - U.K. PM May or French President-elect Macron?


There is only one month to go to the general elections in the U.K. to decide who will be the leader of the country at the negotiation table with 27 remaining members of the EU. With Prime Minister Theresa May’s triggering of Article 50 with support from the House of Commons at the end of March, less than two years are left for the U.K. to complete Brexit negotiations. The tone of both EU politicians and the U.K. prime minister is becoming tense and far from constructive, which are raising concerns about the possibility of a “hard Brexit.”

It is important to note that the Conservative Party as of May 4 secured 1,899 seats - a 563-seat increase in total in 88 councils. The main opposition Labor Party lost 382 seats, down to 1,152 seats. According to a BBC poll on how local election votes might translate into a general election, the Conservatives would receive 38 percent of the national vote, Labor would claim 27 percent, and the Liberal Democrats are destined for 18 percent while UKIP would gain 5 percent. If the results of the general elections are similar, the general election would bring Theresa May a landslide victory.

However, even if May wins a landslide victory in the elections, it promises to be a tough process for the U.K. to reach a deal with EU members with EU politicians recently hardening their rhetoric. Last week, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said it is an “illusion” for the U.K. to think these talks can be conducted “quickly and painlessly” and to imagine that Brexit will have “no material impact”.  However, May has opted not to demonstrate any weakness ahead of the general elections in June, as she aims to consolidate Conservative votes possibly with ultra right wing votes from UKIP (U.K. Independence Party).

President of the European Commission’s chief-of-staff and one of the EU’s Brexit power brokers, Martin Selmayr, said last week that EC Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker would not let the European Commission get distracted by Brexit, who called it “a sad business that can never be considered a success,” in an interview with the EU’s Politico publication. However, according to the BBC, May promised she would be a "bloody difficult woman" towards Juncker during the Brexit talks. While official negotiations have not yet started, some calculations have been made on the cost of the possible divorce bill that the U.K. could face for its ongoing obligations. According to the Financial Times newspaper, the divorce bill could reach €100 billion in total.

Moreover, the recent victory of Emmanuel Macron in France could be good news for the future of the EU, but not necessarily for the U.K. as the 39-year-old French president-elect already pledged to be “tough” during the Brexit negotiations.

Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economic adviser to Macron speaking to BBC Radio 4 said, “There will be tough negotiations and he will be tough” especially when it comes to access to European markets for financial services. Paris still remains one of the biggest competitors to London as a financial center and it is no secret that Paris and Frankfurt both desire to lure more financial institutions and companies from London due to Brexit uncertainties.​ 



08 May,2017