Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Beyond Brexit: EU looks at future with 27 remaining nations

Published:Friday | September 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A pro-remain supporter of the United Kingdom staying in the EU, wears an EU flag mask while taking part in an anti-Brexit protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London on September 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Germany and France are in sync on what it will take to strengthen the European Union once its break-up with Britain is completed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday as leaders of the 27 remaining members of the bloc met for a two-day summit.

"As far as the proposals are concerned, there is a high degree of agreement between Germany and France, but of course, we still have to talk about the details," Merkel said ahead of a summit dinner of EU leaders.

French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker set out their visions for the bloc's future in recent days with keynote speeches on reforming the EU to bind it more tightly together.

In the past, that idea often was held back by a half-hearted Britain. The United Kingdom's decision to leave the bloc has provided a new impetus for the others to move ahead. Thursday's summit dinner was the first EU leaders would make a joint assessment of Macron's and Juncker's plans for putting the visions into practice.

"I am firmly convinced that Europe must not just stand still, and must develop for the future," Merkel said.

Up until now, Merkel was absorbed in a national election campaign. That left the EU limelight to Macron, who planned to elaborate on his plans for a more perfect Europe during the dinner.

A way forward

Macron offered a way forward on Tuesday during a speech in which he described the EU as too slow, weak and ineffective. He called for a joint budget, shared military force and harmonised taxes.

"He made clear that Germany and France want to work very closely together. I also find the proposals for the harmonisation of corporate taxes, for example, and insolvency law between Germany and France positive," Merkel said before heading into a bilateral meeting with Macron.

Juncker, for his part, insisted two weeks ago that the EU's economy was healthier than it has been for more than a decade and ready to move on from Brexit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also was to attend the dinner - the menu includes mushroom cappuccino, roasted black Angus beef with eggplant caviar and juniper sauce, and chocolate cake with raspberry sorbet - and Brexit will never be far away from the discussions.

The more upbeat tone after this week's divorce negotiations between the UK and the EU would only increase this.

"Our future is now so intertwined with Brexit. To talk about Brexit cannot be dissociated from how we will build a future of 27," said Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders during a briefing Thursday.

Like many others, founding nation the Netherlands will be looking at France and Germany to drive the EU onwards.

- AP