Finally, almost a year after the UK voted to go its separate way from the EU, Brexit talks are due to begin this morning. However the backdrop of uncertainty on both Theresa May’s future as Prime Minister and what the UK government actually wants from the negotiations is higher now than at any time. Indeed, we seem to have come a long way from the 'no deal is better than a bad deal' rhetoric that May was so fond of, with Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now telling us that leaving the EU without a deal would be a ‘very, very bad outcome for Britain’. He added, ‘I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is that we should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth, protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations and take them forward.’
Philip Hammond also indicated over the weekend that it was not just the tone of the Brexit negotiations that has changed within the Tory party. He said the government had heard the message from the electorate during the election, that they had grown ‘weary’ of years of austerity and was looking into ways of relaxing future spending plans. Although he still believes the UK’s deficit of 2.5% was not sustainable, by stretching out the time it takes to balance the books, it would give the government ‘wiggle room’ over spending. The tragic Grenfell Tower fire, where critics say cuts to local authority budgets were partly to blame, and that the Tories are trying to form a government with the DUP, whose manifesto opposed certain austerity measures, will also weigh heavy within the party.
As the two old political heavyweight parties slug it out in the UK, across the channel in France, Emmanuel Macron's new centrist political movement, just over a year old, won a conclusive majority in parliamentary elections, winning 350 out of a total available 577 in the National Assembly. Although the turnout was a record low of just 43%, and his victory was short of the landslide some predicted, the fact that the outgoing socialist government held just 44 of their 284 seats speaks for itself. In a bullish interview after the result Macron seemed to relish the challenges ahead, telling a French radio channel, ‘The real victory wasn't last night, it will be in five years’ time when we have really changed things’. For France’s youngest leader since Napoleon, now the real work begins.