The French President has so far played hardball in Brexit negotiations, insisting that offering the UK a good deal would set a dangerous precedent. However, he has also been accused of trying to make things difficult for the UK simply to deter other countries from wanting to leave. Back in June 2016, just a few days before the crunch vote that saw the UK make its historic decision to leave the bloc, Mr Macron issued a warning to the rest of the EU.
He was France’s economy minister at the time and was concerned that a vote to leave could splinter the EU for good, branding it a “contagion”.
He told TIME: “You can suddenly have a series of countries waking up and saying, ‘I want the same status as the Brits,’ which will be de facto the dismantling of the rest of Europe.
“We should not replicate the situation where one country is in a situation to hijack the rest of Europe, because they organise a referendum.”
His words reflected the growing anxiety and fatigue on the continent after an unpredictable referendum campaign in Britain.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron
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At the time, the referendum was high up on the French news agenda, with pundits worrying whether ‘Frexit’ could be next.
Similar debates happen in France around issues with the EU, and increasingly Euroscepticism was on the agenda.
This was demonstrated by Marine Le Pen of the right wing populist National Front party (now National Rally) coming second to Mr Macron in the 2017 presidential election, winning 33.9 percent of the vote in the second round.
Ms Le Pen’s party has also had roaring success in local elections, although struggled to make much headway in the National Assembly.
Marine Le Pen is the President of the National Rally party
Part of the National Rally’s appeal is its hardline anti-EU stance, a stark contrast to Mr Macron’s europhile En Marche.
In his interview with TIME, Mr Macron insisted that even in the event of a Remain vote, the very fact the referendum took place was a threat to the integrity of the EU in itself.
He said: “Even if the Brits decide to remain, we will have to avoid a contagion on other countries.”
The future French President urged EU leaders to act to make sure the British referendum was the only one.
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President Macron came to the UK last week and met with Boris Johnson
This meant addressing the issue of different countries having different deals too.
Mr Macron has always been against the UK’s “special status” – a deal David Cameron struck with the bloc in February 2016.
However, now that Britain had secured the inter-governmental accord to this effect, he insisted that the UK must be the only one to do this, or the whole system will collapse.
He said: “Firstly, totally express that we ring-fence the UK, and say, ‘okay, even if they vote to remain, that is a specific status.”
The then-economy minister insisted that EU leaders should also use this moment to reform the bloc for the better.
He said: “My view is that we should propose a new, very bold and visionary scheme for the EU and the Eurozone.”
He said this should include “more efficiency, less bureaucracy, more competitiveness, more short-term reaction, more protection, and an actual single market”.
He even suggested that Europe-wide referendums could take place to ask fundamental questions about what European citizens want the bloc to look like.
Mr Macron gave some suggestions for questions he thought were better than: ‘Should we remain in or leave the EU?’
He said: “You need a debate and a vote on the principles: Do you want more Europe or less Europe?
“Do you believe we are more efficient with defence and security with Europe, or not?
“Do you believe we are more efficient for our companies with or without Europe?
“These are the questions we have to discuss and push our people to vote on it.”