The new French president has called Brexit a “crime” but his election could be good news for British negotiators, experts suggest.
Emmanuel Macron previously said leaving the EU would mean Britain’s “Guernseyficiation” and an advisor already has warned he will be “tough” in the talks.
He is expected to try and lure London’s financial sector to Paris and may renegotiate the treaty allowing UK border controls in Calais.
As if to underscore his position, he walked to the podium at his victory rally to Ode To Joy, the EU’s unofficial anthem.
Charles Grant, director of think-tank The Centre of European Reform, said Macron’s position was that there “must be a price to pay” for leaving the EU.
But he said Macron’s predecessor’s position was just as hardline and the new president’s “kudos, eloquence, ability to persuade” could lessen the “serious risk” of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
“Any deal on Brexit will require somebody to knock heads together and forge a compromise,” Grant told HuffPost UK.
“Merkel is that person but she’s weaker than she was. If you look around the table there isn’t anyone of any stature at all.
“Donald Tusk can knock heads together but he’s too timid. He can sort of gently nudge them a bit closer together. That’s all he can do. [Jean-Claude] Juncker has no credibility with the Brits.”
Grant said he expected the 39-year-old Macron to be “the EU’s next Blair”, adding: “He will walk on water, at least for a couple of years. He’ll be incredibly influential.
“Having another European leader who can forge compromises, in addition to Merkel, is useful.”
Grant also cited Macron’s links to Britain. He visited as recently as February, when he spoke at Downing Street, and addressed Grant’s think-tank in London in November.
When he was still economics minister in Francois Hollande’s government, he called Britain “a great country”.
“It’s better to have someone who’s hard [on Brexit] and understands us, who’s intelligent, rather than some European politicians who are hard, less intelligent and don’t understand us,” Grant said.
James Landale, the BBC’s diplomatic editor, said Macron “might make the task a little easier” as a Europhile’s victory could make the EU feel less threatened, after months of fear of the resurgence of nationalism.
“A less vulnerable EU may feel less determined to make an example of Britain in the negotiations,” he wrote.
Grant also said the views of Macron’s advisors mattered. Jean Pisani-Ferry co-wrote a paper last year that advocated post-Brexit Britain retain close ties with Europe.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday what type of Brexit Macron sought he said: “I don’t think anybody has an interest in a hard Brexit.”
When asked whether he thought Macron’s election was better news for the EU than Britain, Grant said: “If there’s a deal, it’s good for both.
“There’s a serious risk there won’t be a deal... He’ll be better than Hollande...
“Brexit’s going to be quite hard, whatever happens.”