Brexit: The UK needed this inspirational defence of the EU in 2016 – leader comment

Post-Brexit Britain must remember its true friends are fellow democracies like Emmanuel Macron’s France.

If only Emmanuel Macron had been British, Brexit might never have happened and the UK would not be in its current mess.

Instead of the ‘Project Fear’ approach of David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn’s half-hearted, almost non-existent, campaigning for Remain, we would have had someone prepared to champion the benefits of the European Union with the sort of passion needed to inspire support for the European Union project.

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In an open letter to the citizens of Europe, the French president spoke of the EU as a “historic success” since its formation in the aftermath of the Second World War.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU was about ensuring democratic freedoms

“The reconciliation of a devastated continent is an unprecedented project of peace, prosperity and freedom. Let’s never forget that. And this project continues to protect us today,” he wrote.

The EU, he stressed, was a bastion against “aggressive strategies by the major powers” – he didn’t name any countries but the leading candidates would be Russia, China and, possibly, Donald Trump’s America.

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And it was also large enough to take on the new-found dominance of “digital giants” and to protect people from the “crises of financial capitalism”. The aim of his letter was not to lambast the Brexiteers, though he used them as an example of anti-immigration, right-wing populists who are expected to make gains in the forthcoming European elections.

Their vision was one of “rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.” The EU was about ensuring “democratic freedom: the freedom to choose our leaders as foreign powers seek to influence our votes at every election”.

There is little doubt he was talking about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US President have suited the Kremlin’s main foreign policy aim of undermining Western democracies by sowing the seeds of division among them.

The EU is not without its faults and Brexit still seems likely to happen. But, whatever occurs, the UK must always remember that our true friends are fellow democracies like Macron’s France. We must keep them close and resist the likely efforts to drive us further apart. Because Macron may not have been exaggerating when he said: “Never since the Second World War has Europe been so essential. Never has Europe been in such danger.”