26th May 2019

UK set to join Franco-German 'motor'

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wants Britain to link up with France and Germany in order to strengthen the 'motor' driving an enlarged EU.

In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Mr Straw said, "Associating the UK with the Franco-German motor seems logical as Europe passes from 15 to 25 members". He also hinted that, whilst France and Germany could provide leadership for a union of 15, they would need more power to lead an enlarged EU, which the UK could provide.

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London's move to form a more concrete 'big three' at the heart of the EU may concern smaller EU states and some future member states because of worries that the union will become a 'directorate' led by the UK, France and Germany.

Many in France and Germany may also question whether the UK is ready for such a leadership role given, amongst other things, its reluctance to join the euro.

Enhanced co-operation at work

But Mr Straw's statement comes after several signs that the three powerful EU states are working more closely together.

London backed Paris and Berlin over the euro rules row and broadly followed the Franco-German line during the failed negotiations on the new EU Constitution.

More concretely, the big three led a successful diplomatic mission to Iran in an effort to stop its suspected nuclear weapons programme - sidestepping the EU's diplomatic chief Javier Solana.

Mr Straw said, "The EU's foreign policy is written on a piece of paper. Our mission to Iran gave substance to it".

In another sign of growing co-operation, Messers Chirac, Schröder and Blair - the leaders of France, Germany and Britain respectively - will meet next month to discuss ways of thrashing out the Constitution and other EU matters.

Europe needs America

In an effort to draw a line under past disagreements over foreign policy - notably during the Iraq crisis, Mr Straw said that "the past is the past. What interests me now is that the situation in Iraq is improving".

However, in comments that may find less support in Paris or Berlin, he also emphasised, "Europe needs to work with the US because Europe on its own can do nothing. It's useless to pretend anything else".

He also stressed the role of member states in formulating foreign policy, saying, "It is simply not possible that Europe's foreign policy can be done only by the EU. There will always be a double action: that of the member states and that of the union ... our governments will never give up the final decision because at the root of it all is our defence".

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