Macron claims Brexit is ‘child’ of ‘lies and false promises’
The EU is viewed by most as a democratic union of 28 members. That is what its core treaties say and that is what its key spokespeople say. However, the bloc, and its predecessor versions, have always relied upon Germany and France as its anchor tenants.
It was the French wartime hero and later President Charles de Gaulle who famously told the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1963 that, “Europe is France and Germany; the rest are just the trimmings”.
More than half a century later, de Gaulle’s comment is still relevant.
At the end of August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met in a Medieval island fortress in the Mediterranean to chart the next steps for the partnership that is the driving force behind the bloc.
Inside the walls of Fort de Brégançon, the traditional summer residence of French leaders, the German Chancellor and French President attempted to tackle the most pressing issues on the global agenda.
At the same time Mrs Merkel was seeking to cement progress on some long-standing objectives, including deciding what relationship Europe should have with a resurgent China, re-imagining the shape of the EU after Britain’s exit, and carving out a role for Europe as a defence power to match its economic might.
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A German government source said: “Both Merkel and Macron are aware that the EU is in a crucial period.
“And that France and Germany – even though they have different views on a lot of issues – have to stick together.”
With the German Chancellor standing down this year and Britain out of the bloc completely, Mr Macron arguably has the potential to become the leader of Europe.
It is no secret that the French politician is harbouring such ambitions.
In November 2019, Mr Macron travelled to Beijing and met with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
As the two leaders posed for pictures, the French head stood in front of the European flag at the People’s Palace next to the Chinese leader.
This was viewed as highly unusual as Mr Macron has no formal European Union mandate.
A Politico comment piece argued: “It appeared to show that, for China at least, the French President is viewed as the leader of Europe.”
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Both leaders looked on as Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan and former EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan signed an EU-China agreement on geographic indications (GI), providing intellectual property protections for European gourmet food exports to China.
The latest sign of France’s growing importance in EU-China relations came this month, when President Xi sealed a landmark investment pact with the bloc, witnessed by both Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron.
Mr Macron took part in the ceremony at the invitation of the German Chancellor, who represented Germany, which was the holder of the EU Council presidency until the day after the China deal was signed.
Mrs Merkel has been the main proponent of the investment agreement but it will be up to Mr Macron to help drive its implementation, with the deal expected to take effect in 2022 during France’s presidency of the EU Council.
Mikko Huotari, executive director of the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a Berlin-based think tank, said: “Macron will certainly use the opportunities offered by less UK involvement and the French presidency [of the EU Council] in 2022 to give Europe-China policy more of a French touch.”
Mr Macron’s plan to to manoeuvre himself as leader of Europe, though, could ultimately cause not just his downfall but the end of the European project as a whole.
After the investment pact was signed, some member states immediately started complaining about the power grab by Germany and France.
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One Brussels diplomat told Politico.eu: “There’s a lot of frustration among smaller countries about the way the Commission has been used to push through one of Merkel’s pet projects at the end of her term and the end of her legacy.
“Is this the way the EU will work post-Brexit?
“The Brits are just out and we’re already missing their open market-oriented approach.
“”If Germany weighs in too much, smaller EU countries have nothing to say.”
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Baroness Gisela Stuart of Edgbaston, one of the most prominent eurosceptics during the Brexit referendum campaign, explained how too much power concentrated in the hands of a few could destroy the bloc.
She said: “I think that the tension as you look ahead, is one between countries who have a single currency and ones who don’t.
“And while I do not expect other countries will leave, what I do expect, is that in the years to come within the European Union, there will be a new structure.
“The euro countries will have to deepen more.
“Other countries like Poland and Hungary, who are not part of the euro, might want to look at different arrangements.
“You have to remember, if David Cameron had come back with a deal that said the EU accepts, not as a matter of exceptionalism and opt-out but as a matter of structure for the future, a different structure for euro countries and non-euro countries, people like me would have said ‘let’s give it another go’.”
Ms Stuart noted: “I think the next Commission will be very important to watch.
“One of the things about the next Commission and Parliament is that for the first time since the introduction of the euro, all the big offices are held by the big member states.
“This is unusual.
“I think there will be new tensions created by those who joined in 2004.”
When asked to analyse Mr Macron’s personality, Lord David Owen claimed he would be a prime candidate for “hubris syndrome” – a condition where the behaviour of politicians, business leaders, and other people in power, changes for the worse as they come to enjoy increasing power and influence.
The former Foreign Secretary and SDP co-leader said: “He is a candidate, indeed.
“One of his ministers in his government resigned having made a speech on television and used the word hubris.
“He is a very strong candidate, actually.”
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