Britain’s exit from the EU has shifted the balance of power in the community in favour of heavyweights France and Germany, and robbed London’s erstwhile bloc allies of a key partner, including insofar as the ability to advance or block key legislation to protect their interests is concerned, the Financial Times has reported, citing European officials and analysts.
For example, Swedish Prime Minister Hans Dahlgren noted that his country was “missing the UK as a big player and a close partner” in the ongoing negotiations regarding the bloc’s trillion euro plan aimed at tackling climate change over the next decade.
An unnamed envoy from one of Britain’s traditional EU allies confirmed that Brexit has forced his country to hold talks with other bloc members in a search for similar positions over the past three years. “That has been a political priority,” the envoy said.
Brexit has led to the formation of new alliances includes coalition between Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands known as the 'Frugal Four,' which is looking to limit budget increases amid the gaps left by the UK in the EU’s budget. The 'New Hanseatic League’ of northern Eurozone members is another example, with the Netherlands, Sweden, the Baltic States and Ireland banding together in 2018 to fight for greater fiscal conservatism.
Fears of Rapprochement With Russia
Rem Korteweg, senior research fellow at Dutch international relations think tank Clingendael, said Brexit has taken his country out of its comfortable position in the middle of the UK-France-Germany power triangle, and put it “almost on the periphery, which has translated into concerns about the EU becoming more protectionist and less Atlanticist.”
Specifically, FT suggested that the EU’s Central and Eastern European members may be “particularly concerned” by the UK’s EU exit, as a French and German-led bloc “supported by countries such as Finland and Italy” could seek “to improve relations with Moscow” and generally take a “softer stance” on Russia.
Indeed, France and Germany have each called for improved relations with their eastern neighbour in recent years. French and German energy concerns are playing a key role in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia’s Gazprom. French President Emmanuel Macron has taken the lead in calling for the “re-founding” of a “strong” and “truly sovereign Europe” together with Berlin. The French president has also called for the construction of a European Army, which he said would defend against Russia, China and even the United States. Last year, he ran afoul of Eastern EU members after suggesting that NATO was “experiencing…brain death.”
Paris has also repeatedly called for the reopening of “strategic dialogue” with Russia, saying it would be necessary to talk with the Russians to “build peace in Europe” and “rebuild European strategic autonomy,” presumably from the United States.
Russia, for its part, has expressed an interest in strengthening ties with the EU, whilst keeping itself open to improving trade ties with the UK as well to soften London’s transition.