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.’
The initial round of the French Presidential election on 23 April is rapidly approaching and it is increasingly looking like it will be a nail-biter right until the final run-off between the two leading candidates on May 7. Polls suggest the contest still remains open between four candidates: According to the Kantar Sofres poll at the start of the week Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen lead with 24 percent of the vote and are followed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon who has been gaining ground with 18 percent of the vote. He is now ahead of François Fillon with 17 percent of the vote; plus Fillon continues to fight yet more allegations that he put his wife on the payroll 4 years earlier than he had claimed.
On Wednesday the Dutch voters went to the polls in the first of a series of elections across Europe this year. France follows with the first round of the Presidential election in April and a runoff between the two leading candidates in May and then the German election takes place in September. Given the rise of populist politics, the UK voting for Brexit and the Trump Presidential election victory, markets have been paying more attention to politics.
The French presidential election is shaping up to be a bit of an odyssey with all manner of surprises and it is yet to even get to the first round of voting. A week or so ago Emmanuel Macron looked like having the best chance at facing Marine Le Pen in the second round run-off in May after François Fillon’s polling took a hit from the Penelope-gate scandal. Then, there was the story that the left candidates Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon were exploring an alliance with a single candidate to represent the left but this failed leaving both facing the prospect of elimination in the first round based on their current polling-scores. But in politics a lot can change in a week.