‘Brexit: no-one else dares speak of leaving’: President Macron

The president also spoke of the threat from the far-right, the need for more border control, simpler rules and more defence investment in a speech in Paris

Europe has been challenged, but has also made “unparalleled advances”, said Mr Macron, in a list of recommendations for the EU’s future
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President Emmanuel Macron has said that the effects of Brexit in the UK mean that no other European country is still seriously talking about leaving the EU, in a speech on the future of the bloc.

Now is a “pivotal time” for the European Union, Mr Macron said at La Sorbonne yesterday (April 25), and reiterated that the “future of France is inextricably linked” with the EU.

The bloc is “mortal” and is at risk of being “weakened or marginalised” without proper care, he said. The past five years have seen “unprecedented crises”, he added, citing Brexit, the Covid-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, and the rise of far-right rhetoric as major challenges to have hit the bloc.

Far-right want to ‘pocket benefits without paying’

Mr Macron sent a strong message to nationalists ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections (June 6-9).

"All the nationalists across Europe no longer dare to say that they are going to leave the euro and Europe,” said Mr Macron. “But…[they’ll] take everything Europe has done, but do it without respecting the rules.”

The far-right want to stay in Europe “without paying rent or respecting the rules of co-ownership”, but they must not be allowed to “pocket” benefits “without paying”, he said.

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Macron EU speech: Key points

Other key points from his speech include:

  • Europe has been challenged, but has also made “unparalleled advances”. These “historic” moves include cooperative plans such as buying Covid-19 vaccines together, and opening the EU to new countries such as Ukraine and Moldova.

  • Europe is fragile and at risk, and must be handled carefully. The fate of Europe depends “solely on our choices”, he said, and stressed that the risk of war and digital threats is ever-present.

  • Europe must step up its defence. Mr Macron called for a stronger EU within NATO, including a possible anti-missile shield and European weapons, especially in light of Russian belligerence.

  • Europe must take control of its borders. Mr Macron called for more group decisions on "immigration, organised crime, terrorism, drug trafficking and cybercrime", especially after the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum was voted through by the European Parliament.

  • Europe should “simplify” its rules. The president said that the EU is “too regulated and too open” without enough investment into growth and “productivity”. He said that “several waves of simplification” were needed, “without taking away from our ambition”. The French government is set to present measures to work towards this goal this week, he said.

  • Europe needs major investment. Mr Macron called for the European Central Bank to include a “growth objective” beyond inflation. He called for a “joint shock investment” into defence, Space, AI, and decarbonisation of between €650 billion and €1 trillion a year, to face up to investment by the US and China.

  • Europe must strengthen its democracy. Mr Macron called for stricter conditions on the access to European aid for people who do not comply with the law, and said that the EU must give “greater vigour to the European people”. This should include making the German-French TV channel Arte “a platform for all Europeans”, and strengthening train links across the bloc.

  • Europe should introduce an ‘age of consent’ for digital media of 15 years. Access to the digital space before this age should be subject to parental control, he said. “If we don't control the content, this access risks distortions of the mind, which justify all kinds of hatred,” he said.

  • Voluntary abortion should be inscribed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. "Equality between women and men is part of the humanist project, part of what makes Europe what it is,” he said. He also commended the European Parliament’s recent vote on the first European-wide legislation on violence against women.