President Emmanuel Macron, a man who fancies himself as a cross between Napoleon Bonaparte and Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods, swung swiftly into hyper-spin mode as the news of tragedy in the Channel broke late on Wednesday evening.
‘I will not allow [the Channel] to become a cemetery,’ he declared, as the bodies of 27 migrants, including three children and a pregnant woman, were recovered from the water.
But turning the narrow stretch of sea between Calais and Dover into a graveyard is precisely the consequence of the grotesque policies put in place by Macron himself.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that he and his ministers are not merely content to permit the export of migrants to Britain but are, in effect, colluding with the vile people smugglers to maximise their profits.
Macron’s greatest shame is that even as his Brexit-inspired hatred is now proven to be costing lives, this Tinpot Napoleon shows no sign of giving up his bizarre crusade against us, however much Boris Johnson might delude himself otherwise. He is seen with a bust of Napolean in 2019
If you needed definitive proof, then look no further than those astounding pictures in yesterday’s Mail of French police literally turning their backs as migrants launched a dinghy on a beach at Wimereux, north of Boulogne, just hours before the tragic drownings.
Of course Macron not only refused to accept any responsibility for this catastrophe but suggested it was the fault of the UK, telling Boris Johnson he expected ‘the British to co-operate fully and to refrain from using a tragic situation for political purposes’.
Rather ironic from a man for whom politicisation of whoever and whatever to his own advantage is all he knows.
The truth is that Emmanuel Macron seems to have been driven almost insane by Brexit. It shattered his illusion of the European project on a long march to ever deeper integration with ever more influential French leadership (his own, obviously).
The departure of Britain — the second biggest economy in Europe — ruined his dream of a ‘United States of Europe’ and it sowed the seeds of growing discontent with Brussels in some parts of the bloc, with talk of Polexit (Poland) and anti-EU sentiment growing in The Netherlands and Austria.
Of course Macron not only refused to accept any responsibility for this catastrophe but suggested it was the fault of the UK, telling Boris Johnson he expected ‘the British to co-operate fully and to refrain from using a tragic situation for political purposes’
But it is Britain’s rejection of the technocratic EU behemoth that is unfathomable and unacceptable to Macron. In the years since the 2016 EU Referendum, he has lost no opportunity to kick us at every turn, displaying petty and irrational behaviour that demeans his office and makes a mockery of policy.
And not just on migration.
His dismissal of the British-made Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as ‘quasi-ineffective’ in older people earlier this year was not rooted in scientific fact but in bitter revenge.
Britain had beaten France in the race to a vaccine (the French company Sanofi later abandoned its trials) and also procured millions of doses of other potentially viable vaccines ahead of the EU and started its vaccine programme.
Macron’s comments about the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab undermined its use across Europe and delayed uptake. That is now surely coming home to roost with soaring infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths.
And now, in the wake of the Channel tragedy, I believe that Macron finds himself with yet more blood on his hands.
I have a friend who is a French police officer and he tells me that for him and his colleagues, Calais has become a nice little earner for those happy to undertake extra patrol duties. Numerous special allowances and payments are unlocked by volunteering — ‘that you pay for’, my friend laughs.
President Emmanuel Macron, a man who fancies himself as a cross between Napoleon Bonaparte (above) and Jupiter, the king of the Roman gods, swung swiftly into hyper-spin mode as the news of tragedy in the Channel broke late on Wednesday evening.
That’s to say, funded by the British taxpayer, using some of the £54 million so far diverted to French coffers to help patrol the coast.
But this ‘patrolling’ is hardly arduous. Mainly it consists of watching migrants board their inflatables. A sharp knife would be enough to put these boats out of action, but the police are forbidden to interfere.
Occasionally, word comes down to be more proactive, because politicians or journalists are visiting. When this happens, groups of migrants are put on a bus with great ceremony and, once out of sight, are dropped off in downtown Calais to try again another day.
In fact, to keep the flow of migrants moving towards the beaches and boats, their shanty town camps are regularly dismantled, pushing residents into the hands of people smugglers.
The French call it Operation Poseidon, after the Greek god of the sea — and it is utterly shocking because it is providing ‘customers’ for the trafficker trade. The people in and around Calais are appalled by what happened off their coastline this week — French lifeboat crews are describing it as mass murder.
But in Paris and beyond, while there is some soul searching about the human rights aspects of the migrant issue and this tragedy, few people believe Macron is to blame, and the heavily subsidised media are certainly letting their president off the hook.
But make no mistake: if anyone is responsible it is Emmanuel Macron and his government.
Even as the grim search for bodies continued, yesterday, more boats were setting set off from Northern France and the gendarmes stood idly by.
Boris Johnson is reported to be seeking a ‘reset’ in Anglo-French relations, hoping to work towards ‘joint efforts’ in overcoming this human tragedy. I fear this may be wishful thinking.
Macron has long calculated that Brit-bashing is good politics — and he is facing a much trickier 2022 re-election campaign than anticipated. Anti-British rhetoric is, he believes, the key to holding on to the votes of those disaffected with his domestic achievements.
His inner circle — a tightly-knit group of ideological Europe-enthusiasts employed as confidential councillors and ministers — see mileage in redressing 1,000 years of historic wrongs, in which perfidious Albion has usually come out on top.
This is a recurring theme in a French elite that has never understood why the French have had a lesser status than the British on the world stage.
It is what is fuelling Macron’s lust for power and revenge, pushing him to new heights of irrationality. It’s what has been dubbed ‘tantrum diplomacy’.
He’s been deep in argument with the Swiss over a failed bid to supply jet fighters; he’s picked a huge public fight with the Australians and Americans over a submarine deal that the French were cut out of; and he ceaselessly lectures the Poles, Hungarians and Czechs on their defiance of the EU’s supremacy and righteousness.
But his over-riding obsession is causing trouble for Britain.
In Dublin, the French embassy is busy proclaiming France to be Ireland’s closest European neighbour, adding to the tensions over the already fraught Northern Ireland Agreement.
In Edinburgh, his diplomats assiduously court the SNP.
His prime minister Jean Castex has written to the EU demanding that Britain be punished for denying fishing licences to French boats — a baseless feud that has at times verged on an all-out trade war, including threats to cut electricity supplies to British-controlled Jersey.
Meanwhile, French diplomats are insisting on rigid interpretations of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, a toxic document that seems only to guarantee endless conflicts and inconveniences, that hurt Europe as much as Britain.
His forthcoming presidency of the European Council, starting in January, will only allow him to stir further mischief by agitating for a common EU defence policy in competition with Nato, which he called ‘brain dead’.
All of this hides the truth from French voters: as he prepares to face the electorate in the first round of the presidential election on April 10 next year, Macron is floundering.
And he sees Britain as the easy scapegoat for all his failings at home.
But his greatest shame is that even as his Brexit-inspired hatred is now proven to be costing lives, this Tinpot Napoleon shows no sign of giving up his bizarre crusade against us, however much Boris Johnson might delude himself otherwise.
Jonathan Miller is the author of France: A Nation On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (Published by Gibson Square Books).