Friday, August 21, 2020

How the French government is using Brexit for its economic advantage

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The Eiffel Tower Paris, France | Source: Paul Gaudriault via Unsplash

Brexit is an abbreviation for "British exit," which refers to the decision of the UK to leave European Union (UK). The decision to leave the EU was put to a referendum on June 23, 2016 by the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which resulted in a 52% to 48% majority for those who called for the UK to leave the EU.

The UK had joined the European Economic Community in 1973, and later became the founding member of European Union in 1992. The entry of the UK had always generated opposition from a section of the political spectrum in the country. It was earlier opposed by the left wing parties followed by the Eurosceptic parties like UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) and later propagated by a section of Conservative party.

After a lot of false starts, the UK Parliament ratified Brexit which specified that the UK will leave  the EU on 31 January 2020. An eleven month long transition period was also specified to enable the UK and EU to negotiate their future relationship. During this transition period the UK will remain subject to EU law, remain part of the EU customs union, and single market, but no longer be part of the EU's political bodies or institutions.

Euro, the currency of European Union | Source: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

The loss of the UK, the largest non-eurozone member of the EU means that the focus shifts towards the eurozone members but more importantly it leaves a 75 billion euro deficit in the EU’s budget and raises questions regarding its future direction. In the absence of the UK, it would be challenging for the EU to continue its commitment towards fiscal responsibility, free trade and enlargement of the block.

A 2019 report from New Financial Aid cited that Britain’s exit from the EU would mean the bloc losing its biggest financial centre, London. It also mentioned that many business hubs and financial organizations had started opening hubs in the EU to cope with Brexit.

As per New Financial Britain accounted for almost one-third of the entire capital market activity of the EU, which is more than France and Germany combined. The report had suggested that France and Germany would have a “duopoly” in most major financial sectors post UK’s exit, with France being the dominant in most of the sectors.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France | Source:  Presidencia de la República Mexicana via Wikimedia

The two biggest economies of post-Brexit EU, France and Germany have taken different public postures on Brexit. The president of France, Emmanuel Macron has termed Brexit as a blessing in disguise for France and an opportunity for “European renaissance.” His German counterpart, Angela Merkel has however, chosen to remain silent on the issue.

France has taken an aggressive stance on attracting business away from the UK ever since the 2016 referendum in the UK was won by the leavers in the UK. France under president Macron has rejigged its tax system and reformed its labour laws to create a more business-friendly environment.

Paris had also initiated a poster campaign with the slogan “Tired of the fog? Try the frogs!” in a bid to drive financial investments from London in the wake of the Brexit developments in late 2016. Officials from Paris had also assured stability to the British businesses citing that Paris would be the only global city left in Europe after the exit of Britain.

Arnaud de Bresson, managing director of Paris Europlace, the organization responsible for promoting the financial sector in France points out that Paris is well ahead of its competitors in the EU-27 bloc with nearly 180,000 employees in the financial sector. The next best figures are from Frankfurt with 70,000 workers from the financial sector as per the report by the organization. Brexit has resulted in nearly 80 to 100 financial businesses from London relocating nearly 4000 jobs to Paris, and as per de Bresson this process is “likely to accelerate”.

The French Economy Minister, Bruno Le maire had said in February 2020 that Paris would become the leading financial centre in Europe in the wake of Brexit. He even went ahead to say that the French economy “must take advantage of Brexit”. However, his statements are not exactly accurate. The UK still remains the undisputed leader in the financial sector with 250,000 employees and 7% contribution to its GDP.

French senator Christian Cambon | Source: Boicaro via Wikimedia

French senator Christian Cambon who serves as the co-chair of the Senate Brexit Committee had warned in 2019 that Brexit could have adverse impacts on a few sectors of France’s economy. "Our farmers, our fishermen, our businesses, and the regions of Normandy and Haute France. It will have consequences for all these areas and for the whole of the EU, it could even give other members some ideas. That’s why we want to follow the process step by step while abiding by the competences of the Senate." French fishing industry members have had concerns over being denied access to British waters post Brexit, considering that 75% of fishing taking place in Haute France is in British territorial waters.

However, President Macron remains as optimistic as ever regarding Brexit’s impact on the nation’s economy and has been actively promoting his nation via a series of reforms to attract businesses and investments. He also launched the 'Choose France' package which provides financial help and English-language support to UK based businesses that want to move to France.

The short-term projections are pointing to be somewhat in favour of France, it remains to be seen if Brexit will have a positive impact on the nation’s economy in the longer run or the UK will have the last laugh.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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