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Merkel, Macron outline plans for post-Brexit EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have outlined a new order for the European Union with Britain out of the equation.

The two leaders plan to reform the EU after Britain’s exit from the bloc (Brexit), based on what the German chancellor called “intense” cooperation between Berlin and Paris.

Merkel welcomed the vision Macron set out for leaders over dinner on Thursday, two days after a barnstorming speech at the Sorbonne, in which he called for much deeper and faster integration of the bloc after Britain exits. The speech touched upon issues ranging from joint defense to a shared euro zone budget.

“Last night’s discussions showed there’s a common realization of a need for a leap forward in Europe,” Macron told reporters on Friday, after an EU summit dinner that stretched beyond midnight in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. “Today we’re all convinced Europe must move ahead faster and stronger, for more sovereignty, more unity and more democracy.”

Macron voiced satisfaction with the commitment of Donald Tusk, the summit’s chair, to report back to EU leaders when they meet again in three weeks with proposals for concrete steps to be taken.

Tusk himself referred to a profusion of reform initiatives, such as those from Macron in a barnstorming pro-European speech at the Sorbonne on Tuesday and by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker earlier this month.

Merkel’s concerns 

Facing months of coalition talks in Berlin after she won a fourth term on September 24 on a reduced vote, Merkel told reporters it would take time to persuade skeptical governments of the benefits of deeper ties and there were other priorities, such as agreeing a new EU asylum policy by the year’s end.

“What I’m concerned about is that we bring as many euro zone members as possible into the discussion,” Merkel said, adding that she would also take the future euro zone reform into account in her own coalition talks. Her likely liberal partners are opposed to Macron’s idea of a substantial common budget, fearful of what they consider to be careless spending habits in France and Europe’s south.

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