The German election has taken place over the weekend, with the race to succeed the European Union figurehead as Chancellor in the country going right down to the wire. Armin Laschet from Mrs Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc is going head-to-head with SPD chancellor candidate and current German finance minister Olaf Scholz. The German election is proving to be an extremely close-run race, with several exit polls showing there is very little between the two rival political parties.
But much of the attention will be focused on the departure of Mrs Merkel, who is leaving her position as Chancellor after nearly 16 years in power.
The outgoing German leader is seen as an extremely influential presence within the EU and has played a key role over recent months in the likes of Brexit and the bloc’s recovery from the Covid pandemic.
But one political expert believes the void left by Mrs Merkel will create a “power vacuum” that will be filled by French President Emmanuel Macron.
This will likely see the EU accelerate towards federalism and the creation of Mr Macron’s much-wanted EU army, along with greater economic centralisation in return for pandemic support.
This could open up a huge opportunity for the UK to engage with nations such as the Visegrad bloc (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – all members of the EU and NATO) “who are highly sceptical of Brussels control, as well as eurosceptic political parties across Europe”.
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, told Express.co.uk: “Merkel’s departure will likely create a power vacuum that will be filled by Macron.
“The EU is likely to move into overdrive towards federalism in the creation of an EU army and greater economic centralisation in return for pandemic support.
“When that happens the UK has the opportunity to engage with those EU nations like the Visegrad bloc who are highly sceptical of Brussels control, as well as eurosceptic political parties across Europe.”
But the political expert has warned the UK “remains more politically aligned to Brussels in terms of outlook than to the eurosceptic forces in Europe”, urging Mr Johnson and his Government to “wake up to the political reality”.
He has also urged ministers to learn Brexit voters are more in line with leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish President Andrzej Duda than the likes of Mrs Merkel or Mr Macron as the German and French leaders “want to see us fail”.
Mr Harris-Quinney warned: “Unfortunately thus far the UK Government remains more politically aligned to Brussels in terms of outlook than to the eurosceptic forces in Europe, but they need to wake up to the political reality.
“We didn’t roll back the frontiers of the EU to have the same progressive liberal establishment methods imposed upon us domestically.
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“Brexit voters are far more in line with leaders like Orban and Duda than Merkel and Macron, and our Government urgently needs to learn that.
“It was always obvious but the UK Government is learning the hard way that Macron and Merkel are not allies of Brexit Britain, they want to see us fail.
“We need to find new partners with a different worldview that want to see us succeed.”
Mr Johnson has also been told the Greens playing a major role from a foreign affairs perspective in a new German coalition Government could work significantly to the UK’s advantage.
Joel Reland, a foreign policy researcher at The UK in a Changing Europe think tank, told this website: “One other factor that could impact the UK is if the Greens end up getting the Foreign Ministry in coalition negotiations.
“Both Scholz and Laschet share Merkel’s inclination to be relatively cautious on Russia and China, prioritising economic links over sanctions.
“Yet the Greens have taken a much firmer line, advocating greater use of sanctions for human rights abuses and the abolition of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia.
“This posture is much closer to the UK’s, which may find it has more grounds for cooperation with Germany on issues related to Russia and China, if the next Foreign Minister is a Green.”