I am becoming increasingly convinced that Marine Le Pen will win the French presidential election in April of next year. Part of this feeling is undoubtedly Brexit/Trump echoes – but it’s more than that. One, the mood in France has been affected by the terrorism inflicted on it over the last couple of years and Le Pen is the one who is channeling that fear most effectively at present; two, I think it will be her and Juppe in the final round of voting, and that looks worryingly like a French version of Trump-Clinton, with Juppe looking like the sane, rational, technocratic one next to the populist. We all know how that goes in this day and age.
If this does indeed happen, I fear for the future of the EU. As in, I really give it less than a 50% chance of surviving another decade. If Le Pen takes France out of the EU (she’ll definitely take France out of the Euro) via a Frexit referendum, then the essence of the EU is gone. It becomes Germany and some satellites. Italy probably would go at that stage and then it’s curtains for the project.
How did we get here? From an indomitable force on the world stage to in its death throes within a couple of years is one hell of a fall from grace. What started the slide? I think I know where historians would look back on in a hundred years time as step one: the election of Jean-Claude Juncker to the presidency of the European Commission in late 2014.
If I was going to invent the worst possible president of the EU Commission, someone to give the perfect image for Eurosceptics to hold up to the world that the whole thing is a corrupt mess, I would have struggled to have come up someone as perfect as Juncker. A former Luxembourg prime minister who is known to like boozy lunches, he is everything Eurosceptics don’t like about the EU made flesh. He projects an unearned superiority every time he speaks. His latest stuff post-Trump victory has been embarrassing, even by his low standards, basically how wonderfully intelligent and rational Europeans are next to Americans. The only bright side to Le Pen winning will be seeing what Juncker has to say then. Perhaps something about how the Low Countries are so much smarter than the French. Unless the Dutch screw this line up for him by giving the PVV the most seats in March, which they probably will.
I want to be clear that I’m not blaming the impending dissolution of the European Union on one man, however flawed he might be. There are a myriad of forces at work here and there is no way to know whether a better president of the Commission would have made any difference. But that still doesn’t make his election not a really, really terrible idea.