EU told Brexit ‘would make it very difficult to rebuild bloc’ in gloomy French prediction

Frexit: Expert fires warning about leaving euro

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Cracks are emerging within Brussels as member states turn on leaders inside the European Commission, attacking its handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Nations such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are incensed at being left without some doses of the COVID-19 jab, forcing the likes of Prague to plead with other countries to hand over any vaccines it can offer. The row has seen the likes of France under fire, particularly President Emmanuel Macron, who claimed in January the AstraZeneca jab as “quasi-ineffective”.

This led to reports at an EU summit that Mr Macron had been criticised for leading some citizens to question the vaccine’s validity, sparking a rise in anti-vaxxers across the bloc.

Even the Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen admitted there had been flaws in the EU’s scheme.

These divisions have only grown, particularly as some look over at the UK, now free of Brussels’ shackles, and its impressive rollout programme, which has seen more than 20 million Britons now having at least one dose of the Covid jab.

And in the build-up to Brexit, concerns were raised over how difficult it could become to restore the bloc in a post-UK climate.

Bernard Guetta, a journalist who was elected as a French MEP in 2019, wrote before the UK’s referendum on EU membership that Brexit would “really be a body-blow to the EU” as “so many politicians and political parties would follow headlong down this route to get a slice of the action”.

Writing for voxeurop, the 70-year-old added in 2016: “The pressure for similar referendums would arise all over Europe.

“The defenders of the European ideal would find themselves on the defensive. In such a crisis it would be very difficult to rebuild the EU.”

He also gloomily warned that regardless of whether Leave or Remain won, “the EU must be restructured”.

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The politician said the rebuild had to take into account those “countries which want to go further and faster on the route to political unity” and nations “which reject this option because the common market alone is enough and they do not want to share more sovereignty”.

He added: “The fate of Europe itself will play out over the next few months: nothing is more important.”

Last year, as coronavirus began to take its grip on the world, the bloc was again divided – this time over how to support nations struggling to cope financially as a result of the pandemic.

Nations such as Sweden and the Netherlands were reluctant to give handouts to countries including Spain and Italy, and initially argued against supporting those measures.

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A deal was eventually signed, but tempers from those discussions remain clear in the memory.

At the time, new research from the PopuList, demonstrated how within just under 30 years, combined support for European far-right, far-left and other eurosceptic parties had surged from 15 percent to almost 35 percent.

Speaking about the data, Matthijs Rooduijn, a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, one of the PopuList project leaders, said that “European leaders who support the EU integration process can absolutely not afford to sit back and be complacent”.

He added: “Eurosceptic parties are very much thriving and it is unlikely that this is going to change any time soon.

“It’s striking because it means that today more than one in every three Europeans votes for a party that is critical of the EU.”

France’s own euroscepticism will be tested next year as pro-EU President Mr Macron, is likely to take on anti-Brussels candidate Marine Le Pen, in what would be a rematch of the 2017 French election.

The latest Ipsos poll could spark concern for Mr Macron’s backers.

It shows Ms Le Pen beating the President by 1.5 percent of the votes in the first round, at 26.5 percent.

Mr Macron would come second with 25 percent.

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