Macron fights lonely EU battle over Brexit

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on April 11, 2019 - Duration: 01:59s

Macron fights lonely EU battle over Brexit

French President Emmanuel Macron was throwing his weight around at the latest EU summit; fighting a largely solo battle against a longer Brexit delay.

No one doubts he's a devout Europhile, but some also suspect him of playing politics.

Richard Lough and Lucy Fielder report.

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Macron fights lonely EU battle over Brexit

Is it visionary leadership, or Gallic grandstanding?

President Emmanuel Macron was throwing his weight around at the latest EU summit -- fighting a largely solo battle against a proposed one-year extension for Brexit.

In the end an October compromise was reached.

But Macron broke a few noses in the process.

Reuters' Richard Lough in Paris.

SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, RICHARD LOUGH, SAYING: "He wants to usher in yet deeper integration, to transform the European Union into a global powerhouse which has the clout to compete with the likes of China, and the United States both politically and economically.

Now for weeks, President Macron and his aides have been expressing frustration that Britain's Brexit mess has been distracting European leaders from their own agenda, particularly his reform agenda." Unusually, Macron's determination put also him at odds with Germany's Angela Merkel -- the EU's two most powerful leaders are usually tightly aligned.

Peeved German diplomats suspected Macron was playing to his home audience.

And after months of angry 'Yellow Vest' protests against his economic reforms. Macron is also keen to show his people that they have a strong say in the EU, ahead of European parliament elections that could become a de facto referendum on the bloc.

SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, RICHARD LOUGH, SAYING: "Broadly speaking, France is a Europhile nation, with a deep attachment to the euro single currency.

But in France, as across Europe, a rise in support for populists, and deep anti-establishment anger, poses a threat.

Macron leads in opinion surveys, but hot on his heels is the leader of France's far right, Marine Le Pen.

Now she'll be campaigning on a platform to return national sovereignty to European member states." Merkel is reaching the end of her reign, with elections coming up in Germany; and Brexit's a distracting mess, as Macron has always warned.

His battle for deep European reform could be a lonely one for some time.

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