‘United Europe!’ Johnson victory sparks calls for ‘new page’ in EU project from Macron

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PARIS and Berlin have both congratulated Boris Johnson on his election as Prime Minister, while stressing that London and Brussels face “challenging times ahead” because of Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron and the future head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen both called for a “stronger, more united” Europe on Tuesday, as London and Brussels remain at loggerheads over the terms of the messy Brexit divorce. 

Mr Macron told reporters outside the Elysée presidential palace in Paris that he and the newly elected Commission chief hoped to “open a new page” in the European project. 

France and Germany “agree on the need to work together to build a strong, united and more ambitious Europe,” Mrs von der Leyen continued, adding that the bloc’s two powerhouses “have a common path for Europe”. 

Reiterating the Franco-German pledge to make Europe a stronger and more confident global player, Mr Macron called for an overhaul of the bloc, listing “social progress” and the “promotion of a Europe that protects and controls migrations” among his top priorities. 

The French centrist also said that the election of a woman at the head of the powerful executive branch – a first for the bloc – reflected an “ambitious Europe that wants to regenerate itself”. 

Mrs von der Leyen has already stressed that she wants a Commission “with half male and half female commissioners”. The current Commission has 19 male commissioners and nine female commissioners. 

Germany’s former defence minister was elected last week by 383 votes to 327 against.

A close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she needed a minimum of 374 votes to be confirmed. 

She will take over from outgoing Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1.

Mr Macron is one of the loudest advocates for deeper European integration, and both he and Mrs Merkel have sought in recent years to project unity in an effort to push back against populist forces in Europe. 

Addressing the German parliament last November, Mr Macron said that the Franco-German couple had the “obligation not to let the world slip into chaos”. He has also repeatedly warned against nationalism, calling it a “project of rejection”. 

The French leader has also had the toughest stance on Brexit, although both he and Mrs von der Leyen congratulated Boris Johnson on becoming the leader of the Conservative Party and the next Prime Minister earlier on Tuesday. 

“I’m looking forward to working with him as soon as possible, not only on European issues such as Brexit, but also on international issues that we have to closely coordinate on everyday with Britain and Germany, such as Iran and other international security issues,” he said. 

Mrs von der Leyen, for her part, said both sides faced “challenging times ahead”. 

“We have a duty to deliver something which is good for people in Europe and the United Kingdom,” she added. 

Mr Johnson, a staunch eurosceptic, has promised to get the UK out of the bloc by the October 31 deadline “do or die,” saying that a no-deal exit would happen if a new withdrawal agreement cannot be reached before then. 

“We are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on October 31 and we are going to take advantage of all the opportunities it can bring in a new spirit of can do,” he said in his victory speech. 

However, French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, a key Macron ally, warned Mr Johnson that the bloc would not change its position on Brexit and would not renegotiate the divorce deal. 

“As much as we all want the relations between the UK and the EU to be as close and constructive as possible, @BorisJohnson’s election doesn’t change a simple fact: we have a good deal and the EU will stand by it,” Mrs Loiseau wrote on Twitter. 

“The EU is not turning,” she added. 

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