The other day I read a story in The Sun, which was repeated in The Express, saying French President Emmanuel Macron was threatening to blockade the port of Calais once Britain leaves the EU. I was going to write something in response but found no evidence in either article that Macron had said any such thing: it was merely speculation by some remainer politicians ramping up project fear.
It was nonsense, of course:
French officials have rejected suggestions they could resort to a “go-slow” policy at the port of Calais if there is no Brexit deal.
The UK’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Thursday of major disruption in a “worse case scenario”, which might force firms to use other ports.
But Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France region, said ensuring “fluidity” of trade was essential.
Another official said closing Calais would be an “economic suicide mission”.
As most of my readers know, I’ve been living in France since before the Brexit vote. Here’s the aggregate view of the French from where I’m standing: we don’t care. Now some might think the decision was stupid, but the French are no strangers to making silly decisions in what they perceive to be their national interest, and so can perfectly understand why a majority might have voted to leave. They also share the view of many mainland Europeans that Britain’s heart was never really in the EU project, they were always moaning and asking for opt-outs, and so perhaps they’re better off leaving. The subject of Brexit rarely even comes up; unsurprisingly, the French have other things to concern them.
So even if French politicians decided to punish Britain for leaving by causing chaos at the ports, this would be unpopular with ordinary Frenchmen who already take an exceptionally dim view of Macron. The French might burn a lorry load of British sheep on the motorway or illegally ban imports of British beef in order to protect their own industries, but they don’t hate the British to the point they want them punished over Brexit, let alone ports blocked which would hurt them as much as us.
Last weekend I met a bunch of Frenchmen to play some music, all of them over fifty. During the break the subject turned to politics, and they expressed their dissatisfaction with the ruling classes in France and Europe generally. I understand the younger generation have grown up brainwashed on EU propaganda, but rather than resenting Britain, I think a lot of French and other Europeans have more in common with Brexiteers than we think. Not that you’d know this listening to politicians or the media: their view of Europe comes from people of exactly the same privileged social class as them, only sitting in a different capital city. That they’re seriously suggesting the French are going to blockade Calais shows how little they know about the countries they’re fighting to maintain their partnership with.