Poll raises spectre of a Eurosceptic France

A French election in which the voters cared little about Europe may end with a European sting in the tail. And if it does, it will be the new British government, in the EU presidency from next January, which has to try to put the Humpty Dumpty of the single currency back together again.

A Eurosceptic French government and a Eurofriendly British one? How things change.

We are not there yet. It is not certain that the left will win the second round of the French elections next Sunday, even though the Socialists and Communists combined topped the polls in the first round yesterday. Even if they do win, and the Socialist leader, Lionel Jospin, becomes prime minister, in co-habitation with the centre-right President Jacques Chirac, it is not the death sentence for EMU and the single currency.

It will, however, scramble all the predictions for what already looked like a monstrously difficult timetable of negotiations for EU governments in the next year. The British government, and the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, in particular, will be thrust into the leading role, taking over the rotating presidency of the EU council of ministers in January when the final negotiations on EMU are due to begin.

Mr Jospin, the Socialist leader, has not campaigned against EMU. How could he? It was a French Socialist President, Francois Mitterrand, and a French Socialist Prime Minister, Pierre Beregovoy, who negotiated the Treaty of Maastricht for France. It was a French Socialist, Jacques Delors who guided negotiations as President of the European Commission.

But Mr Jospin did campaign on the need for a softer interpretation of the treaty, and its small-print on the single currency, than is currently employed by EU governments, mostly at the insistence of Bonn. The Communists, his likely partners in any left-wing French government, are adamantly opposed to EMU and all its works. So are some left-wing members of Mr Jospin's own party.

Any of this sound familiar? For Mr Jospin on the French left, read Mr Major on the British right. If Mr Jospin becomes premier, the scene would be set for a potentially cataclysmic confrontation between France and Germany, the countries at the core of the European Union.

But that is also the most convincing reason for believing that some kind of deal could, and would, be found. The Franco-German alliance, and the EU, are too important a part of the domestic political landscape of both countries for a deal not to be made.

It remains difficult to see what that deal might be. Mr Jospin is insisting he will inflict no more budgetary pain on French people this year - no more taxes, no more spending cuts - to meet the Maastricht guideline of a deficit of no more than 3 per cent of GNP in 1997. He is also calling for the scrapping of the rules imposed by Germany which could impose financial penalties on any country back-sliding on budgetary disipline after it joins the single currency.

Bonn will reject all three points. Other countries will also be reluctant to re-open so many cans of worms at once. Over to you Mr Cook...

What chance has the French left of winning on Sunday, only three years after is suffered the most devastating defeat in the 1993 parliamentary elections? Based on the projections last night, it is marginally more likely that they will bring it off than the centre-right. But the outcome will depend on the movements of a few hundred votes in each of up to 100 constituencies where there will be three-cornered contests between the left, the centre-right and the far-right National Front.

No computer can accurately project such movements, based in part on local considerations. It is also possible that the disillusioned voters of the centre-right, may be motivated to turn out next Sunday by the prospect of a left-wing government and a messy period of five years of left-right co-habitation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions