During a pre-election speech in the City French president-elect Francois Hollande told the professionals that he speaks English albeit with a French accent and furthermore he confidently declared that he ‘understood’ Britain.
He did not however elaborate on the content of his ‘understanding’ but perhaps some insight can be had from his moderate, right-leaning socialist agenda. The anti-austerity soon to be Head of State has positioned himself on a possible collision course with the market ‘movers and shakers’ in London and EU financial services industry.
For Hollande the future of a unified ‘Republique’ rests on a renewed on more subsidised public sector jobs for teachers; a renewed focus on the environment and social equality; continuing France’s economic courtship with Germany; strengthening the EU and most importantly ushering Britain back into mainstream EU constitutional affairs.
For the anti-austerity President the few next months will be telling as they will reveal exactly how he will perform the balancing act that will define his tenure especially if he intends to bring France’s deficit to 0% by 2017.
Given the win by the Conservative London mayor during last week’s election – bucking the national trend – it may be that although Hollande may ‘understand’ Britain it is arguable that Britons may not understand themselves.
So what does Hollande understand?
More importantly what does he intend to do with this understanding. From Prime Minister’s Cameron lukewarm endorsement of the Merkel-Sarkozy recovery plan perhaps it Hollande understands that at the heart of British recovery will be a strong, competitive London and any EU plans to derail this will mean further estrangement between Britain and her cousins across the pond.
True the Chancellor’s budget has been the cause of increased skittishness in the City resulting in a ‘double-dip’ recession as clearly ‘pasty taxes’ aren’t quite the ‘relief’ City-dwellers were expecting. That said however the ‘Coalition’ pact reinforced as it is by the re-election of the pro-City London major points to the City’s international financial services credentials being shored-up even if this means estrangement from Europe to avoid the application of certain restrictive EU directives that threat the competitiveness of the City’s offshore dependency rivals.
Shield the City from the Worst
Maybe this means that Hollande will support the position of Britain in order to ensure the integrity of the Union especially in circumstances where there are renewed calls for Greece’s exit from the EU.
If Hollande is minded to extend to Britain a French ‘olive branch’ – assuming that German agrees – it may also be reasonable to assume that whatever strictures are placed on the global financial markets will not apply to the City. Equally it may also be reasonable to suggest that even as the EU rolls out further plans to rein in markets there may yet be further ‘distinguishing marks’ to shield the City from the worst (depending on your perspective ) of the emerging regime.
If this turns out to be the case if will be that not only does Hollande understand Britain; he has explained it to the rest of Europe.
What about the rest of us?
What about the rest of us you may ask. Well to be fair, President-elect Hollande didn’t lay claim to an understanding of any body else. In fact he has yet to express any interest in doing so either.
Early days yet so perhaps that will change.