The Brief: De Gaulle was right about Britain all along

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Back in the 1960s, Charles de Gaulle vetoed the UK’s attempts to join what is now the EU. Exactly one year on from the Brexit vote, it’s clear that ‘the Great Asparagus’ was right to try and keep Britain out of the club.

There’s no point being diplomatic about it at this stage: the UK has been an obstacle to EU integration for much of its four decades of membership.

Common foreign policy, military cooperation and attempts to tackle the eurozone crisis have all either fallen by the wayside or taken years to come to fruition purely because the UK deployed its veto.

Yesterday, British MEPs even tried to block an EU-wide ban on bee-harming pesticides. That attempt at obstruction was, thankfully, crushed.

Remember, the UK only joined the bloc to split up France and Germany… According to Yes, Minister, anyway.

But the events of the last 12 months have indeed created an EU that is more united than ever.

The doom-mongers predicted other countries would follow the UK out the door and that the remaining EU27 would turn on each other like Alexander the Great’s generals, looking to carve up the empire for themselves.

But that hasn’t happened.

EU citizens’ faith in EU membership has increased and the remaining member states have all-too-easily agreed on negotiating positions and resurrected projects like the EU’s long-gestating military HQ.

Germany and France have teased joint proposals on the bloc’s future and the relocation of the UK’s valuable EU agencies is, so far, going smoothly as well.

Sure, the other member states are still divided on things like migration but the UK’s departure has proved to be a potent rallying cry.

Who doesn’t love a ‘what if?’ scenario? In a parallel universe somewhere, maybe General De Gaulle’s vetoes killed the UK’s European aspirations stone-dead and in that reality, the Union realised its potential of becoming the preeminent world power.

When it comes down to it, every good story needs a decent villain. The threat of war blighting Europe once again was the big-bad in the EU’s origin story and financial wrack n’ ruin was the antagonist of the disappointing sequel.

Everyone knows Brits make the best bad guys, so that’s the role the UK can continue to play as we move into the third act of the European project trilogy.

There’s no doubt De Gaulle would’ve smiled if he could’ve seen Theresa May’s body language as she left the summit last night.

The Roundup

The European Council summit continued in earnest today, catch up with all our live coverage here. Macron and Merkel kept the Brussels press corps waiting and were coy on treaty change when they did finally appear.

Theresa May’s “generous” offer on EU citizens’ rights in the UK post-Brexit received a mix response. Angela Merkel called it a good start but other leaders labelled it “insufficient”. If you fancy some light reading, here’s the EU’s offer (submitted well before the UK’s).

Jean-Claude Juncker still doesn’t know what kind of Brexit the UK wants. Watch his extensive interview here. It’s also Tweets of the Week time once again.

It’s not easy being an Uber driver in the Czech Republic. Serbia’s new president told the EU’s enlargement chief that its membership bid is still “top priority”.

Turkey has dropped the theory of evolution from a newly approved curriculum because students are too young to understand the “controversial subject”.

Donald Trump seems to have turned over a new ‘green’ leaf. He still wants to build a wall on the US border with Mexico but now he wants it to be covered in solar panels so it “creates energy and pays for itself”. What a visionary.

Italy’s Genoa airport is getting around hand luggage liquid limits by waiving the rules for pesto. Gourmands of the Ligurian sauce only need to donate 50 cents to charity and they can take 500g on board. Delizioso!

Look out for…

EU hopeful Albania heads to the polls in a rescheduled parliamentary election, following an opposition party boycott last month.

Views are the author’s.

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