On air
  • RFI English Live
  • RFI French Live

Euro 2016 Press review Referendum United Kingdom

Issued on • Modified

French press review 23 June 2016


This morning's main stories are either about yesterday's un-banning of today's Paris protest against labour law reform, or about the cross-channel referendum on UK membership of the European Union. Oh, and yes, there's football!

The front pages are a strange mix this morning . . .

Le Monde, which went to press at lunchtime yesterday, offers a main headline which has been overtaken by subsequent events . . .

As Le Monde went to the printers, the government was sticking to its hard line on banning the Paris part of today's latest round of protests against the reform of labour law.

Communist L'Humanité came out a few hours later, when the authorities had decided that banning the Paris march was probably a bad idea. "You are free to protest" exults the communist daily's main headline, the accompanying report celebrating this latest government retreat as another victory for the trade unions.

With Amnesty International and the Human Rights League promising to join the banned march, which was clearly going to go ahead anyway, with predictable repercussions on peace and order in the capital, the authorities seem to have decided to make the best of a bad deal by agreeing to the march, but along a route decided by the police. A nil-all draw in political terms, with both sides claiming a moral victory.

Static marchers, stupid government

Right-wing Le Figaro is fairly fulminating.

"Another proof of presidential weakness" is how the conservative paper chooses to see yesterday's decision by the executive to overrule the Paris police chief.

Le Figaro's editorial says that it's always dangerous when President François Hollande takes a firm stand. Because, as a general rule, he's just setting himself up for an eventual undignified climbdown.

First, the march was banned, then it was bizarrely frozen, protestors told they would have to stand still. Le Figaro wonders what a static march would look like?

Hollande's supporters say it all proves the president is capable of "flexibility", Le Figaro say he is simply incapable of leadership. You pays yer money and you takes yer pick.

And it's just another sad episode in the long-running tragedy surrounding government mismanagement of labour law reform, according to the right-wing paper. Determination, hesitation, confusion, capitulation is how Le Figaro summarises Hollande's typical reaction.

Only a paralysed government could propose static marches.

The day's other big story is the cross-channel referendum on the future of the United Kingdom as a member state of the European Union.

Today's vote won't solve any real European problems

"D-Day" is Catholic La Croix's striking headline. In an editorial, La Croix wonders if Europe might not be better off without them, because of London's long history of either slowing or refusing the emergence of a continental common policy. But the Catholic daily accepts that there are many other and more serious roadblocks on the route to European integration, with the UK just an easy scapegoat.

If the Brits decide to leave, what crucial European problems will suddenly be resolved wonders La Croix? The stark answer is none. There will simply be the additional problem of managing the first departure in the EU's history.

None of the structural difficulties will have gone away. Unemployment, debt, regional inequlities, pollution, migration and terrorism won't be any more or less serious, whatever Her Majesty's subjects decide.

And there's a lesson there for Europe, whatever the outcome. Fundamental reform is required, to make the EU less complex. But, says La Croix, in a world dominated commercially by China and the United States, it is only by acting at a continental level that Europe's individual economies have any chance of staying in the fight.

Five reasons for wanting the UK to stay

Left-wing Libération gives five reasons why the Brits should stay: leaving will provoke a financial crisis on both sides of the Channel, Europe will lose a considerable part of its commercial clout, there'll be less pressure for reform if they go, Europe will become even more enclosed, more focused on itself. Finally, taking London out of the European equation will give more weight to the Franco-German odd couple, already seen by some as calling far too many crucial shots.

C'mon ye boys in green!

And, to finish on a high note, sports daily L'Equipe celebrates the start of the quarter-final stage of Euro 2016, in the course of which France will play the Irish Republic, with a headline reading "Let the party begin". The paper remembers that the Irish have an old score to settle with France, Thierry Henri's cheating hand having kept the boys in green out of the 2010 World Cup. Revenge would be sweet.