The EU is supposed to be a democratic union of 27 members. 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, General de Gaulle’s comment is still relevant.
It was German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron who this summer came up with the idea of a huge coronavirus recovery package, otherwise known as the recovery fund.
The €750billion (£668billion) fund will be used as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the virus.
The remaining money represents the EU budget for the next seven years and it has been described as the first step towards “a fiscal union”.
Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel also played an “active role” in driving through the EU-China investment pact earlier this year, despite deep concerns about the Chinese Government’s use of its economic clout to enmesh itself in western countries.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, German MEP Gunnar Beck has warned that because of Brexit, Paris and Berlin have now become unhinged.
He explained: “The UK was a voice of reason in the EU.
“That voice is sadly gone now.
“The UK generally pushed for liberal economic policies, not too much state regulations and on the whole, it was relatively restrained in relation to public borrowing.
“The UK also tried to resist European integration, slowing it down… “
Mr Beck added: “Now that Britain has left, I believe Germany and France have become largely unhinged.
“They will be able to achieve much more.”
In a recent report, the head of Oxford-based think-tank Euro Intelligence Wolfgang Munchau echoed Mr Beck’s claims, explaining how Brexit has already started affecting European narratives in Brussels.
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He wrote: “One of the few successes of the UK inside the EU has been to forge European narratives. The British invented the whole notion of euroscepticism. We did not have a word for it before.
“It was mostly an anti-integrationist narrative hidden by pseudo-categories. At its most pro-European end, it was a narrative of a Europe with intergovernmental cooperation. It was dismissive of the European Parliament and the European Commission, and contemptuous of eurozone integration in particular. Its language was that of pre-war diplomacy, with notions of alliances and coalitions.
“A concrete example is the common reference to the EU in the UK media as a bloc. If you want integration, you don’t choose a language that puts the EU in the same category as the Soviet Bloc.”
Mr Munchau concluded that just as Brexit offers an opportunity for the UK to reinvent its economic models, it offers an opportunity for the EU to shift narratives.
He added: “British newspapers and the BBC are foreign media now. We noted recently that none of them covered the EU’s agricultural reforms. The lack of skin-in-the-game is already noticeable. Fast improving translation technologies diminish the inherent competitive advantages of English-language media. A gap in the market is opening. But it needs filling.
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“We are not sure whether European media will fill it. But we do expect UK narratives of European integration to fade over time. It may be a soft factor. But never underestimate the power of story-telling.”
The same sentiment was also reiterated by writer and consultant on European security Edward Lucas, who argued that without Britain in the European bloc, Brussels was able to strike the investment deal with China much more easily.
He wrote in The Times: “Inside the EU, our sceptical, Atlanticist voice counterbalanced other forces.
“The scramble to sign off the China deal exemplifies how EU decision-making now works in our absence.”