Brexit: Emmanuel Macron says UK is 'retreating into nationalism'

French president urges raft of reforms to EU including bloc-wide minimum wage, climate bank, and cyber defence agency

Jon Stone
Brussels
Tuesday 05 March 2019 09:20
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Countdown to Brexit: How many days left until Britain leaves the EU?

The French president has launched yet another attack on Britain’s departure from the EU, accusing his neighbours across the Channel of “retreating into nationalism”.

In an article translated into 24 different languages and printed in various newspapers around the continent, Emmanuel Macron issued a call to arms to EU citizens, urging the start of a “European renaissance”.

His comments come just weeks before the campaign kicks off for the European parliament elections, in which Eurosceptic and far-right forces are expected to make significant gains across the bloc.

“Never since the Second World War has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger,” he wrote.

Brexit stands as the symbol of that. It symbolises the crisis of a Europe that has failed to respond to its peoples’ need for protection from the major shocks of the modern world. It also symbolises the European trap.

“The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it. Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future?

“Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.”

Mr Macron, who said Europe should not be seen as a “soulless market” but “a project”, used the article to propose a series of reforms to the EU.

He called for the creation of a new EU agency to protect the bloc against cyber attacks, a ban on foreign powers financing European political parties, and a new European security council that would have the “the UK on board”.

Mr Macron also backed the creation of an EU minimum wage framework that would be set according to the cost of living in each country, and a climate bank to finance the decarbonisation of the continent by 2050. A new EU-wide food safety force would also bolster regulation.

These changes could be agreed at an EU constitutional convention by the end of the year, he said.

“This conference will need to engage with citizens’ panels, and hear from academics, business and worker representatives, as well as religious and spiritual leaders,” he said.

“It will define a roadmap for the EU that translates these key priorities into concrete actions. There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different speeds, and that is open to all? In this Europe, the people will really take back control of their future.”

In an enigmatic twist, Mr Macron added: “In this Europe, the UK, I am sure, will find its true place. The Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all. We need to escape this trap and make the forthcoming elections and our project meaningful.”

It is not clear whether the French president was calling for the reversal of the referendum result, or whether he was suggesting the UK could participate in the institutions from outside the bloc.

It is far from the first time Mr Macron has launched an attack on Britain’s decision to leave the EU – a move he sees as linked to the surge in far-right and populist movements.

At a summit in Salzburg last September he branded leading Brexiteers “liars”, while in January he said the vote to Leave was “a referendum that has been manipulated” and that what the public had chosen “is not possible”.

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