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Who is France's 'Madame Brexit', the new European Affairs Minister?

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Who is France's 'Madame Brexit', the new European Affairs Minister?
Amélie de Montchalin addresses the National Assembly on January 23, 2018. Photo: AFP
10:33 CEST+02:00
French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed Amélie de Montchalin to be his new “Madame Brexit,” the European affairs minister who will be in place as Britain - possibly - pulls out of the EU.

The 33-year-old relatively unknown politician has taken over from Nathalie Loiseau, who quit her job last week to lead Macron's party in the European election campaign.

Why haven't we heard of Amélie de Montchalin before?

Only those following French politics closely would have known of the member of parliament for the Essonne constituency near Paris, who became a politician just two years ago when Macron tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to join his march to power.

What will her approach be to Brexit?

She hasn't gone into any detail yet about how she will handle France's approach to Britain's withdrawal from the EU, but her attitude might well be summed up in what she has said generally about how she will tackle European affairs.

“You need a lot of pugnacity and and a lot of energy to work on European affairs,” she said after being appointed on Sunday, adding that she that she saw her new job as an “immense challenge in this time of Brexit.”

Campaigners for Britons in France will be keeping a close eye on the successor to Loiseau, who in an interview with The Local this year expressed her support for Britons worried about the impact of Brexit.

She said Brits were a "priority" for the French government and that in the case of a no deal Brexit they will be given enough time to secure their status.

Although Loiseau's eventual no-deal bill hardly calmed the fears of Britons, she was considered capable and supportive by campaigners and regularly spoke up for Brits. 

 

READ ALSO: UPDATED - the ultimate no-deal checklist for Britons living in France

Ex-Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau at the launch of Macron's LREM party European election campaign. Photo: AFP

What's her background?

De Montchalin, whose name is an aristocratic one, is a classic example of Macron's new army of members of parliament who entered politics for the first time in 2017, most of who came from business or the civil service.

De Montchalin gave up a glittering business career; she had studied at a top French business school, HEC, then at Harvard, before high-flying jobs at BNP Paribas bank and at the AXA insurance giant.

And her track record since she became a politician?

“When she wants something she gets it.” That was the assessment a fellow member of parliament gave when asked about her by Europe 1 radio.

She made a name for herself as an enforcer - her colleagues even used the British parliamentary term “whip” to describe her - when pushing through the budget, and is admired for her ability to get her head around arcane budgetary and policy detail. Which will be useful when she has to formulate French policy on Britain's chaotic departure from the EU, if and when it happens.

She is also the vice-president of the parliamentary group of Macron's La République en Marche party.

READ ALSO: Blow for Brits in France as 'Brexit minister' quits French government

What about her private life?

De Montchalin is married to a business consultant and is the mother of three children, including twins.

She is a staunch Catholic, and it was in religious terms that she had described her arrival in the tempestuous world of politics.

“I responded to a call, not from the Angel Gabriel, but from a certain Emmanuel,” she said in a 2017 speech.

Does she have a cat called Brexit?

Her predecessor Nathalie Loiseau joked that she owned a very indecisive cat that she called Brexit. There have been no reports so far that the new Europe Minister owns any pets whose names are linked to Britain's unhappy relationship with the EU.

 
 
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