Macron to warn on need to avert further exits from EU

French president’s speech intended warning shot for continent ‘unable to project itself ’

French president Emmanuel Macron intends to make a wide-ranging speech in which he will attempt to galvanise European allies. Photograph: Reuters

French president Emmanuel Macron intends to make a wide-ranging speech in which he will attempt to galvanise European allies. Photograph: Reuters

 

French president Emmanuel Macron will describe Brexit as a wake-up call in a speech this month when he will say Europe must be more assertive in the face of rival world powers, according to sources close to the Élysée Palace.

His words are intended as a “warning shot” for a continent unable to project power and defend itself, say aides. They describe the speech as Mr Macron’s most important since he urged fundamental reform of the European Union in 2017.

“This is a critical time,” said a source close to President Macron. “If we Europeans don’t want to have other Brexits and become trapped in a naive defence of status quo, we have to wake up.”

Mr Macron’s speech coincides with rising tensions in the West, which has been shaken by US president Donald Trump’s “America First” policies and Britain’s departure from the EU. A more assertive China and Russia also pose significant challenges.

Although the French president will use Brexit as the main impetus for his speech, the aim is not to offer an initiative to unblock the negotiating stalemate between London and Brussels, said the source.

“He won’t comment on the negotiation, or offer some kind of ‘Macron plan’ to fix the problem. The idea is to draw the lessons from Brexit,” said the source.

In Mr Macron’s view, Brexit is part of the same phenomenon that brought Trump to power and sparked the yellow-vest movement in France: a fear of losing out from globalisation, territorial inequalities and rising contempt for the establishment.

The French president will focus on championing a “Europe that protects” in the May 26th European election. And he will try to convince voters with plans aimed at reforming Europe’s trade, competition, digital and climate policies.

The speech will also seek to convince his European counterparts, who have watered down many of his 2017 proposals, to start thinking of the EU as a tougher geopolitical player in a ruthless world.

“The EU has done the internal regulation rather well, built a nice, peaceful area, with benign trade and regulated competition. But Europe hasn’t understood how to carry itself in a brutal world,” said the source

Meanwhile, Gibraltar’s leader has said an incursion into British waters by a Spanish warship at the weekend was a quixotic attempt at intimidation. But he said the people of Gibraltar would stand up to bullies before and after Brexit on March 29th.

“Anyone who believes in the rules-based international legal order will have been shocked by the cavalier and quixotic actions of the Spanish military vessel at the weekend,” said Gibraltar chief minister Fabian Picardo.

“This childish behaviour is unsatisfactory whether it is errant or directed from above,” said Mr Picardo. “The people of Gibraltar won’t be bullied now or after the 29th of March.”

Mr Picardo said the Spanish vessel sailed through Gibraltar’s waters with her weapons uncovered. – Reuters

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