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ELECTION

Interview: Brexit shock inspired me to join Macron’s revolution

A French candidate to become MP for Emmanuel Macron's party tells The Local how the shock of Brexit inspired him to join the new president's pro-Europe revolution and how Scandinavia is the inspiration behind his planned reforms for France.

Interview: Brexit shock inspired me to join Macron's revolution
Photo: AFP

Alexander Holroyd, 30, (see photo below) a London-based French-British dual national is fighting to become one of 11 MPs to represent France's thousands of expats living overseas.

Holroyd, who worked in public policy in London and Brussels prior to joining Emmanuel Macron's En Marche! movement in the summer of 2016, is battling to become the MP for the “Northern Europe”  constituency which includes Britain and Scandinavia.

He told The Local in an interview during a trip to Copenhagen that it was Britain's shock referendum result on June 23rd last year that spurred him to join the Macron revolution, initially as a volunteer and then as a candidate for parliament.

“I thought if we have a surprise like Brexit in France, I would never forgive myself for just sitting on the sidelines,” he said.

“I felt the result emotionally,” says the parliamentary candidate, who describes himself as “profoundly pro-European” just like France's new president.

'A lot of inspiration for En Marche comes from the Scandinavian countries'

While Macron stormed to a victory against Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election on May 7th he faces crucial parliamentary elections this month in which he will hope to gain the majority he needs to get his planned reforms through parliament. 

That may prove a tough task even though opinion polls are positive.

“The country has very little choice,” says Holroyd. “If it wants the reforms they’ve chosen then we have to win a majority,” says Holroyd. 

“If we fail to give a majority to the president the powers of the president are incredibly curtailed because of the way the constitution works,” he added.

While Macron won over 20 million votes, he can hardly claim to have a ringing endorsement from the French public given that around half of those who voted for him did so to block Le Pen and some 16 million French voters abstained. 

Macron's planned remedy to solve France's economic ills, which include low growth and high unemployment, are inspired by a Nordic model.

He wants to free up the labour market and cut corporation taxes to boost businesses but at the same provide protection for those who need it.

Holroyd has been impressed by what he has seen when visiting French voters living in Scandinavia and believes the Scandinavian model is the right one to follow.

“I’ve been inspired. I was in Oslo a couple of days ago, Stockholm yesterday and Copenhagen today. The simplicity and the digitalisation of all the procedures for things like passport renewal is absolutely inspiring,” he said.

“The whole point about having flexi-security within the labour force, more liberalisation of the labour force but done with more protection for those who fall between the cracks, and a very big investment in education and training,” said Holroyd.

“At the moment the French regime for unemployment for high earners is very generous. We want to cap the top end of that. But there’s a whole host of areas where we’re going to save or shift taxation.”

He, like other candidates for Republique en Marche are hoping voters back them the same way they did the president and he sees his election as part of Macron's drive to renew France's political class.

Holroyd believes Macron's first few weeks in power bode well for his chances in the parliamentary elections.

“The sense I get from everyone is that we’re beaming with pride to have this president,” said Holroyd. “And having gone around Copenhagen and Oslo, we’re welcome everywhere. I’m not exaggerating, there’s a real hope for Europe, and that’s a feeling we haven’t had for a long time in France.”

Macron won huge credit on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday for his response to Donald Trump's decision to ditch the Paris climate deal. He also won praise for standing up to Vladimir Putin.

“Macron's an enormous source of pride and of hope,” says Holroyd. “And it’s a hope that we desperately needed, and you can see the impact, even if there’s nothing legislative that’s been done yet. I think the momentum is itself bringing about change, before the actual legislative work starts, and that’s pretty spectacular.” 

CLICK HERE to read the full interview with Alexander Holroyd by The Local's Michael Barrett

ELECTION

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”

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