Emmanuel Macron welcomed Theresa May to the Elysee Palace on Tuesday to discuss the requirements France needs to agree to an extension of the Brexit talks. Sky News foreign correspondent Deborah Haynes revealed figures within the European Union have suggested President Macron may be using his power within the European Union Council – which will ultimately decide whether to concede an extension – to draw comparisons with national hero Charles De Gaulle. Speaking as Mr Macron and Mrs May met in Paris, Ms Haynes said: “I was talking to someone this afternoon, he was saying that President Macron really wants his De Gaulle moment – referencing when Britain and France had fallen out previously over the European Union.
“While he does want to be talking tough and does want to be making clear that any extension granted to the UK has to serve a purpose, he isn’t going to want ultimately to break European unity because that is the thing he holds so dear.
“If he is faced with the fact, which it seems he will be, that the majority of European Union member states want to be flexible and want to give Britain a flexible extension, then that’s what will have to happen.”
The Sky News correspondent also suggested the Prime Minister may use fear of a break within the EU ahead of the May parliamentary election to secure the support of Mr Macron.
The European Union is predicted to face a bitter fight with increasingly popular populists parties when EU citizens head to the polls in a month.
Ms Haynes continued: “That maybe will help Theresa May because the last thing President Macron wants, as we come into European parliamentary elections, is to see a crisis within the EU, to have to see Britain effectively kicked out of the EU because parliament has voted it doesn’t want a no deal.
“For a no deal to be forced upon Britain, the blame game will then kick in.
“If there was some kind of disruption, as has been warned on the UK and EU side as a result of a no deal Brexit, then scenes of queues and chaos overshadowing the European parliamentary elections could give power to those against the European Union and have pushing forces inside France, pushing against greater unity in Europe.”
Theresa May last week requested Brussels grant the UK a further Brexit extension until June 30 after the Prime Minister announced she would enter negotiations with the Labour Party to draft an alternative deal to her withdrawal agreement.
Preliminary conclusions circulated as Mrs May finished her meeting with the French leader suggested the EU will agree to a delay to June 1 unless Britain agrees to fight European elections.
EU Council president Donald Tusk said a flexible extension would “allow to terminate the extension automatically, as soon as both sides have ratified the withdrawal agreement”.
“The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready. And the EU27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits.
“Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates.
“Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy.”
He added: “As you know, with Brexit there are no easy solutions. Both aforementioned options have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, let us discuss them in an open, creative, and constructive way.”