French presidential candidate Macron tells London expats to return after Brexit | News | DW | 21.02.2017
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French presidential candidate Macron tells London expats to return after Brexit

The centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron also met with Prime Minister Theresa May during his visit to the British capital. His campaign rally attracted 2,000 French voters living in London.

In his speech to around 2,000 French citizens at Central Hall, London on Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron urged the London-based expats to return to France after Brexit so they could "innovate, seek, [and] teach" in their native country.

"I want (France) to be a country where we can do all this," the former investment banker told a crowd including many finance professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as UK media and politicians. 

He simultaneously suggested France needed to adjust what he termed its "fear of failure" mentality that causes the country's human talent to look for opportunities abroad. 

London, which has been called France's sixth biggest city, is home to about 300,000 French citizens, many of whom work in the capital's financial sector. The UK is set to leave the European single market - which includes the free flow of financial services - and the right for EU nationals to live and work in the UK. Macron's appeal could prove attractive to London's French nationals who remain mired in employment and personal uncertainty. In addition, the recent announcements by major banks that they will likely relocate staff from London to the continent - including to Paris - may directly affect the work situation of even those who would wish to remain in the UK. 

Macron pays a visit to 10 Downing Street 

Earlier in the day, Macron also met with Prime Minister Theresa May - a rare face-to-face granted to a foreign candidate. This indicates the seriousness with which the British government considers Macron's chances of eventual success in the upcoming presidential elections.

Macron, who has outlined a no-concessions policy towards Britain's departure from the EU, issued the same call he made later in the day for French citizens to move back to France.

"I want banks, talents, academics, researchers and so on. It will be part of my program to be attractive for these kinds of people," Macron said from the steps of 10 Downing Street.

The former economy minister formed his own party "En Marche!" ("On the move!") to run in presidential elections that will take place in two rounds over two Sundays at the end of  April and in May. His has drawn support away from the struggling French Socialist Party by positioning himself as the only candidate who is able to transcend the left-right divide and successfully defeat the far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen.

Frankreich Le Pen startet Wahlkampf mit Angriffen auf die EU (Reuters/R. Prata)

Marine Le Pen has edged up in recent polls

Could Macron be losing steam?

Although the revelation that Republicains candidate Francois Fillon may have paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for work she may not have done provided Macron with a popularity boost, recently released polls all suggest that the benefits of the scandal may be wearing off.

Three recent opinion polls indicate that Fillon has either edged back to being even with Macron or has taken a small lead. Two polls showed Macron neck-and-neck with conservative rival Fillon as favorite.

An Elabe poll on Tuesday showed Fillon's share rising to between 20 and 21 per cent and Macron's falling to between 17 and 18.5 percent for the first round on April 23. Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon sits a distant fourth.

All polls indicate that Le Pen would win the first-round but would lose to both Fillon and Macron in the final vote on May 7. In the same Elabe poll, Marine Le Pen was seen to be closing the gap between herself and the two contenders in the second round - Macron would take 59 per cent to le Pen's 41 per cent.  

cmb/jm (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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