Just when the Eurofederalists thought the wind was in their sails the German voters turned out to humiliate both the major centrist pro-EU parties. An ironical aside is that if Bundestag members were elected on the ‘first past the post system’ Mrs Merkel would have won with a huge majority. Now, if she wants to govern with a majority, she has to wrangle with the FDP who are to the right of her on immigration and EU budgets and the Greens who are firmly to her left. Even then Figure 3 does not tell the whole story as the CDU’s traditional Bavarian partner (CSU) has members with views very similar to the populist AfD. This will make it impossible to respond with hard cash to Mr Macron’s reforming zeal even if she wanted to do so. Moreover, populism is very much a force to be reckoned with elsewhere as the Polish Government remains recalcitrantly defiant of ‘EU values’ and Catalonia’s revolt is surely about to escalate in response to crass police activity. Another centrifugal development is the increasing popularity of parallel currencies in Italy with 11 regional schemes so far and the three main opposition parties’ promoting a national one. Meanwhile, Mr Macron may be the hero of the hour but he too faces populist opposition from the left and the right. Figure 4 does not make happy reading for any European government, especially in the light of the way Germany ended up voting. All this would indicate an even more pragmatic approach to EU policy-making within which Brexit is only one of a number of thorny issues. Mrs May et al’s apparently more emollient approach may yet open the door to more flexible negotiations but unless Mr Johnson came out with another volte-face he would have it slammed in his face.
European winds in the wrong sails?