Brexit: Johnson hoping Merkel will ‘step in’ says Gordon Brown
France and Germany are considered key decision-makers in the Brexit process and have recently been at odds over what concessions the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier should be allowed to offer Britain. This month, France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune warned Paris will veto a “bad” post-Brexit trade deal. Mr Beaune said: “I want to tell our fishermen, our producers, the citizens who are listening that we will not accept a deal with bad terms.
“If a good agreement cannot be reached, we will oppose it. Each country has a veto right.”
On the other hand, Mrs Merkel, who holds the EU presidency, is understood to be more realistic in accepting Britain’s negotiating position in fishing and trade talks.
It is widely believed the German Chancellor will play an influential role in brokering any UK-EU trade agreement.
A Whitehall source said: “We are hoping Merkel can unlock Macron on fisheries.”
It is not the first time the two leaders haven’t see eye to eye on an important issue.
In 2015, Mr Macron, who at the time was Minister of the Economy, tried to help Greece avoid crippling austerity measures but was frozen out of negotiations by Mrs Merkel.
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The confrontation, which came at the height of the 2015 Greek debt crisis, was noted in “Adults in the Room”, the memoir of Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister who tried to win debt relief for Greece.
Mr Macron, an ardent pro-European, formed a strong bond with Mr Varoufakis, as he believed the crippling austerity being inflicted on Greece in return for bailouts could lead to the ultimate destruction of the eurozone.
On June 28, 2015, with Greece’s bank on the cusp of closure, Mr Varoufakis wrote that he received a text from Mr Macron offering to broker a last-minute deal to win debt-relief for Greece in return for structural reforms.
Offering to broker a meeting between the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and former French President Francois Hollande, Mr Macron wrote: “I do not want my generation to be the one responsible for Greece exiting Europe.”
The attempt, however, was blocked by then-German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schauble, who wanted Greece to take a “holiday” from membership of the euro.
Three months later, after Mr Varoufakis had resigned in protest at the Greek government’s capitulation to its troika of creditors, Mr Macron explained that the German leader had elbowed him aside after he had called the Greek debt deal a “modern-day version of the Versailles Treaty”.
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Mr Varoufakis wrote: “Merkel had heard him and, according to Emmanuel, ordered Hollande to keep Macron out of the Greek negotiations.
“Merkel’s spell was every bit as powerful as I had imagined.”
In an earlier episode, though, Mr Macron did manage to persuade Mrs Merkel to order the Eurogroup creditors to compromise with Greece, leading to the brokering of a respite period for Greece in February of that year, which proved short-lived.
While France and Germany may be split on Brexit, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Ukip founder Alan Sked claimed Mrs Merkel might actually be plotting something alongside the French leader.
He said: “Macron has been a great advocate for a federal Europe.
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“He has made great speeches, calling for Europe to be united and having a fiscal union, a monetary union, which includes a bank, one treasury, one finance minister and some sort of financial parliament.
“Merkel and the Germans don’t actually believe in that but Merkel is about to retire and the rumour is that she wants to have some kind of historical legacy because so far there is not very much she can claim as hers.”
Prof Sked added: “There is this persistent rumour that she would like to go down with some positive legacy and that she will do something about the fiscal union.
“I am not sure the Bundestag will accept it, though.”
In October, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the EU was already taking a step towards a fiscal union with its plans to recover from the coronavirus pandemic – which involve the European Commission borrowing in financial markets.
Mr Scholz told an interparliamentary conference on stability, economic coordination and governance in Brussels: “We are moving towards fiscal union, a major step forward in the financial capacity and sovereignty of the EU.”
To support the bloc’s economy, the EU has announced a €750billion (£678billion) recovery fund.
He added: “Markets have confidence in European policies and in the development of European economies.
“We should carry on with this course.”
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