I've kept reading and listening on information and opinions about the upcoming French election and one of the main issues that keep coming up is the future of France in the EU. I know that many of the candidates are pro-EU to varying extents with a notable exception of Marine LePen. She's a polarizing figure and her sentiments are highly anti-EU. If she gets elected and enact her plans for leaving, how will that be so devastating to the EU that many people said it would be the end of it? Also, if France's departure would be that bad to it, will it just affirm the weakness and inequality of the EU since so few countries have such disproportionate power and influence in it?
With Britain exiting, France and Germany are the most powerful countries in the EU. If France exits, the EU will in practice be dominated by Germany, and thus cease to be a truly multipolar institution. As such, it will have failed in its mission of permanently constraining major power rivalry in Western Europe through economic and political integration.
There are a few causes for concern about France leaving the European Union. This is especially since France is one of the core members of the bloc and also has the 3rd largest economy in the EU. The concerns are mainly economic-related.
The United Kingdom is already leaving the European Union. If France leaves, then Netherlands may start leaving, Greece may consider leaving too.
Currently, the major countries in the EU are Germany, France, Italy and the UK. The EU would be left with only Germany and Italy should France leave too, thus it would defeat its original purposes which is to have cooperation within the European area.
Problems with Eurozone
Should France exit the European Union, it would cause a sovereign default as described in this article by CNBC.
A few days ago, David Rachline of the far-right National Front party in France said that "the debt of France is about 2 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion), about 1.7 (trillion euros) are issued under French law, which means that it can be re-denominated."
The economic program of the National Front specifically calls for the exit of the euro and the creation of a new currency, the French franc, which would be "closely" linked to the euro while allowing the government to undertake "competitive devaluations" making the transition in an "orderly way".
There is only one problem. It does not work. There is no "orderly exit" from the euro. It is an oxymoron.
This would be the largest credit event in history and would create a massive contagion effect throughout the euro zone. The euro, obviously, would suffer from the break-up risk, so the fallacy of the "closely linked" second currency is simply a joke. Both would collapse in tandem.
Uncertainty in the EU
This will also result in uncertainty in the EU if its core members leave the EU. That would leave Germany as one of the key players left. Negotiations with the UK would also be more difficult.
It’s beginning to dawn that the result in France affects Britain as well as France itself. The next president will have a big bearing on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, a significant impact on UK foreign and defence policy thinking, and may even be an important off-stage factor in the general election here in June. Plus, of course, it matters rather a lot to the European continent to which, in spite of Brexit, Britain remains tied by geography, history, trade, culture and sympathy.
That being said, it's still too early to tell the consequences. Firstly, there aren't many articles around that describes the consequence of France leaving the EU as different candidates have different ideas of what role will France play in the EU if they are elected. Furthermore, candidates' rhetoric may change after they're elected.
Lastly, it's an upheaval task for the country to leave the bloc as France's participation in the EU is written in the country's constitution.
But unlike Britain, France has a written constitution, which states that "the Republic is part of the European Union". So a "Frexit" would require a constitutional change which experts say is difficult, but not impossible.
The United Kingdom is not physically connected to any European Union country except France and Ireland. Ireland is only connected to part of the UK. France is only connected by a tunnel. So there's currently no EU country that the UK separates from the rest of the EU. Goods to and from Ireland already travel by boat.
France lies between Spain and Portugal and the rest of the EU. So if France closes its borders, it effectively closes Spain and Portugal as well. Sure, they can still transport by sea, but they'll be cut off by land if France closes its borders.
Switzerland is a land-based country that is not in the EU but shares borders, but it doesn't block anyone. And because of the Alps, it's probably not the best shortcut anyway. France is a natural path for goods traveling between Italy and Belgium, Netherlands, or Luxembourg--even parts of Germany.
Financially, France is also one of the subsidizing countries. It pays more per capita to the EU than it gets back in services. The UK paid its way, but its special deals kept it from subsidizing the other countries as much. Frexit would be a more significant departure from a budgetary perspective. Either spending would need to be cut or other countries would have to step forward to make up the difference.
The UK was already only partially in the EU. It never gave up its currency. France is all in, much better integrated.