Emmanuel Macron: French would 'probably' vote to leave EU

Greg Heffer, Political Reporter

France would "probably" have voted to leave the EU if it had held an in/out referendum, according to the country's leader.

Emmanuel Macron attributed the UK's decision to leave the EU to British voters' loss of faith in globalisation and unrestricted free markets.

The French President suggested there is "always a risk" with votes such as Britain's 2016 referendum, when asking the public "just 'yes' or 'no' in a very complicated context".

Asked whether a Leave or Remain vote in France could have ended with the same result, Mr Macron told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "Yes, probably. Probably in a similar context. But our context was very different so I don't want to take any bets."

Mr Macron, as a committed supporter of European integration, added he would fight "very hard" to keep France in the EU if it were to hold a referendum on membership of the bloc.

He added: "It's a mistake when you just ask 'yes' or 'no', when you don't ask people how to improve the situation and to explain how to improve it."

Offering his interpretation of Britain's vote to leave the EU, Mr Macron said: "My understanding is that middle-classes and working-classes - and especially the oldest in your country - decided that the recent decades were not in their favour.

"And that the adjustments made by both [the] EU and globalisation - for me it was a mix of both of them - was not in their favour.

"And second I think one of the reasons was precisely an organisation of our EU probably which gets too far in terms of freedom without cohesion.

"Towards free market without any rules and any convergence."

Also appearing on the show, Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell claimed he agreed with Mr Macron's assessment that Brexit was due to a sense that "neoliberalism has alienated people".

The French President, who visited Britain last week for a major UK-France summit, also used the interview to repeat his insistence that full access to the EU's single market for UK financial services "is not feasible" after Brexit .

But he did claim the UK will secure a bespoke trade deal, although only in the context of preserving the bloc's single market.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly outlined her wish for a post-Brexit trade deal including both goods and services.

Mr McDonnell suggested Mr Macron was being "fairly hard-nosed" about the EU's approach to UK financial services as he predicted a "softening" once Brexit negotiations on a future relationship begin.

Mr Macron's suggestion is not the first time he has warned French voters might seek a "Frexit".

Shortly before being elected to the presidency last year, in which he came head-to-head with eurosceptic far-right campaigner Marine Le Pen, Mr Macron told how people in France were impatient and so angry that the "dysfunction" of the EU was "not sustainable".

Mr Macron has insisted the bloc is in need of reform and vowed to make it one of his main areas of focus, laying out plans for a Europe-wide finance minister as part of a process of deeper integration.