Europe is toughening up. Germany has announced that it will recruit 20,000 more troops over the next few years, bringing its army to nearly 200,000 by 2025. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron – the frontrunner (for now) for the French presidency – came over to London yesterday to give Britain a verbal duffing up.
Monsieur Macron threatened to “reconsider” Anglo-French cooperation on the refugee crisis in Calais, and vowed if he becomes President to refuse it access to the EU’s single market. He also tried to woo Britain’s brainiest, appealing to “banks, talents, researchers, academics” to cross the Channel to France.
Despite the threats, some remain bullish about Britain’s prospects. RT Howard argues today on the Telegraph that the British will keep working closely with their European cousins after Brexit as part of an ‘Entente Frugale’. “Despite the threats and hostile rhetoric,” he concludes. “Europe needs us at least as much as we need it; and we will still be in a position to exert leverage over the EU and its member states, although sometimes in more subtle, indirect ways than before.”
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Mrs Merkel has been feted and courted as the de facto leader of the EU for the past decade. Mr Obama was a strong believer in the Euro and EU project, and looked to Mrs Merkel to provide its discipline and to be its voice.
Mr Cameron decided Mrs Merkel was the main person he had to win over when he sought to renegotiate the UK’s relationship. She did not offer him much, which led to the decisive vote by the UK electorate to leave. It was another of her damaging misjudgements, to go alongside the mistake she made over migration into Germany.
Today Mrs Merkel’s power is visibly waning. The UK now has a Brexit government. It sees Mrs Merkel as an obstacle when she blocks early resolution of the residency issues, or when she grandstands telling us we have to accept freedom of movement.
In the USA President Trump has launched public criticisms of her immigration policy and has said he sees the EU as a “German vehicle”. He speaks up for European countries which want to restore their own identities. Her voting base is also under attack from the anti Euro, anti migrant AFD party.
The diminution of Mrs Merkel’s power is helpful to UK as it seeks to negotiate its future relationship with the EU on leaving. Mr Trump will be aware of the huge size of Germany’s balance of payments surplus, which matches part of the large deficits the USA and UK have run up.
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