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France facts: France has five ‘spare’ MEPs

Like all EU countries, France gets to send a number of elected representatives to the European Parliament - but did you know that France has five 'reservists'?

France facts: France has five 'spare' MEPs
Photo: AFP

Strange but true, in the European elections in May 2019 the French people elected five MEPs who don't yet have a seat in the parliament, but are poised to be called up at fairly short notice.

And although the France Facts series generally looks at the unusual and frankly bizarre things about France, in this case we must report that it's the UK's fault.

And yes, it is to do with Brexit.

The UK was a bit of a surprise participant in 2019 Euro elections, since everyone thought it was leaving the EU in March, so rules had to be hastily rewritten.

Once it is no longer a member state, the UK will obviously lose all of its 73 MEPs.

The European Parliament decided that most of these seats would simply be scrapped and the parliament would be streamlined from 751 members down to 705.

However the remaining 27 seats would be redistributed among countries that had been left underrepresented – including France, which would get five new members.

However when May arrived and the UK was still around, it was obliged to participate in the election and return 73 MEPs – all of whom will lose their jobs when/if Brexit actually happens.

The flip side of that is that France was forced to elect its extra MEPs, but tell them they didn't actually have a job until Brexit happens. Which must be one of the fairly rare examples of Brexit leading to job creation.

As France operates a list system for electing Euro MPs, the parties that received the highest number of votes selected the next person on their list to be the reservist MEPs.

So Sando Gozi and Ilana Cicurel of President Emmanuel Macron's ruling La Republique En Marche party, Jean-Lin Lacapelle of Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National, Claude Gruffat of the greens and Nora Mebarek of the leftist Envie d'Europe will be heading to Brussels at some point.

Although with three missed leave dates so far, when the UK will actually leave is anyone's guess.

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For members


France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.