Now that the UK is out, one country, and one women, can now rule over Europe with impunity. That country is Germany, and that women is Angela Merkel.
Call it her first executive decision after the UK/EU breakup. The Telegraph UK reports, citing a Sunday Times interview with a German government minister, that Angela Merkel is about to fire the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker within the next year.
Why the sudden schism in the EU family? According to the Telegraph, Angela Merkel is at odds with Juncker’s calls for “more Europe”, which is turning off member countries from actually following through on a deeper integration between states. Merkel prefers a more subtle and stealth approach to a tighter political union.
On a side note…Juncker’s apparent fondness of liquor, is probably not winning him points with his new boss.
The German chancellor’s frustration with the European Commission chief came as Europe split over whether to use the Brexit negotiations as a trigger to deepen European integration or take a more pragmatic approach to Britain as it heads for the exit door.
“The pressure on him [Juncker] to resign will only become greater and Chancellor Merkel will eventually have to deal with this next year,” an unnamed German minister told The Sunday Times, adding that Berlin had been furious with Mr Juncker “gloating” over the UK referendum result.
Mr Juncker’s constant and unabashed calls for “more Europe”, has led to several of Europe other dissenting members – including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – to lay some of the blame for Brexit at his door.
Even before he was appointed President of the European Commission – against the wishes of David Cameron – concerns were raised about Mr Juncker’s alchohol consumption which were dismissed as a “smear campaign” by his officials.
At the time The Telegraph and several other newspapers reported officials worrying about Mr Juncker having “cognac for breakfast”and rolling through long negotiations fortified with large quantities of claret and brandy.
A week before the UK referendum vote a video emerged of an apparently-drunk Mr Juncker taken at a May 2015 EU summit welcoming Viktor Orban, the hardline Hungarian prime minister, as “the dictator” before giving him a playful slap on the cheek.
“The dictator is coming,” Mr Juncker is heard to say, before locking a shocked Mr Orban in a clumsy embrace while Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council looked on, visibly embarrassed.
Since the June 23 vote both the Czech and Polish foreign ministers have called publicly for Mr Juncker to resign – moves that one senior EU official dismissed last week as “predictable”. However, the rumblings from Berlin now represent a much more serious threat to Mr Juncker’s tenure.
The split also offers a glimmer of hope for British negotiators who are preparing for fractious EU-UK divorce talks and are desperate to avoid a repeat of February’s failed negotiations which – controlled as they were by Mr Juncker and the Commission – left David Cameron without enough ‘wins’ to avoid Brexit.
“Everyone is determined that this negotiation is handled in the European Council – i.e. between the 27 heads of government – and not by the Commission, the eurocrats and the EU ‘theologians’ in Brussels,” a senior UK source told The Telegraph.
In a signal that battle has partly already been won, Mrs Merkel pointedly met with French and Italian leaders in Berlin last week, excluding Mr Juncker from the conversation.
The Commission has also declined to fight the Council for the role “chief negotiator”, according to an account of a meeting of senior EU officials seen by The Telegraph.
British strategists hope that creating a much broader negotiation that includes the UK’s role in keeping Europe geopolitically relevant through its deep Nato ties, defence contributions and links to Washington, they can avoid a narrow tit-for-tat negotiation on trade where the UK has only very limited leverage.