EU Internal Policy

Angela Merkel warns that the EU is in ‘critical’ condition as leaders gather for first meeting without Britain

  • German chancellor warns that future of the Brussels club is at risk
  • EU leaders gathering in Bratislava without Britain for the first time
  • Will be discussing how to hold the Brussels club together in future 

Angela Merkel has warned that the EU is in a ‘critical situation’ as European leaders gather for emergency talks.

In their first meeting without Britain, the leaders of the 27 countries that will remain after Brexit will gather at Bratislava Castle in Slovakia to begin discussions on how the Brussels club can survive.

Arriving this morning, Mrs Merkel set out a laundry list of areas in which progress had to be made – including counter-terrorism, collective defence and creating jobs.

Angela Merkel said the EU is in a 'critical situation' as she arrived for the summit today

It is the first time EU leaders have gathered without Britain in attendance after the referendum

‘We are in a critical situation. We have to show with our actions that we can get better,’ she said.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said the leaders ‘all want to show unity’ but warned that it would not be easy.

‘After Brexit and the risks connected with Brexit, it is absolutely necessary to me to be very honest,’ he said.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, will urge the premiers to refocus on practical actions such as tightening border security and curbing migration rather than ‘grand visions’ of creating an EU superstate.

Mr Tusk, who chairs meeting of EU leaders, will relay a message from Theresa May, who will be excluded from the talks.

However, the discussions will be dedicated to working out how the bloc will continue without Britain rather than on agreeing their Brexit negotiation tactics.

Mrs Merkel appeared to be struggling to be seen as the leaders lined up for the group photograph before the talks

The German chancellor, who is only around 5ft4, had been placed in the second row behind EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker 

Mr Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland, will ask the leaders to come up with an honest assessment of what is wrong with the EU and will strike a note of caution over plans drawn up by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for an EU army.

A senior EU official said: ‘Tusk himself believes that cooperation should be as much as possible concentrated on practical things. Too much discussion on grand visions that do not materialise can at this stage be counter-productive.

‘It should be about concrete cooperation of member states in the area of defence and not to replace Nato but to supplement the cooperation of many of our member states in Nato.’

A leaked draft of what the leaders are set to agree reveals they will admit that many people in Europe ‘are concerned by a perceived lack of control and fears related to migration and terrorism’.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, Mrs Merkel and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern were deep in conversation before the formal talks even began 

They will promise to curb the migrant influx by sending guards to strengthen Bulgaria’s border with Turkey and step up deportations of people not entitled to asylum.

In a session aimed at ‘building a common diagnosis’ on what is wrong with the EU, Mr Tusk will tell the leaders they ‘cannot simply shout down the reality with optimistic messages about the future’

‘To succeed we have to be honest about the shortcomings to lay the grand for hope,’ he will say.

The UK was missing from the line-up of flags at Bratislava Castle, where the EU summit is taking place

An EU source said: ‘Do we want to address real issues or hide behind nice words? We cannot avoid honest discussion in Bratislava.

‘The diagnosis debate among the leaders has to be frank and open, even if it will not always be very nice. But I hope it will be polite.‎’

Mr Tusk’s reality check is in sharp contrast to Mr Juncker, who on Wednesday gave a long-winded and rambling speech setting out his dream of an EU army.

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Stephen Tayler
Stephen Tayler

Why are we entertaining these idiots? We are paying millions a week to them in fees and we don’t even get to sit at the table, or get invited to any of the meetings. (Not that it would do us any good anyway, as regardless of what the members states want it is the unelected commissioners who decide policy and one once they have decided that becomes EU law). I don’t understand this you don’t join a club, pay your dues and get excluded from anything they do. To me this looks very much like they have sacked us from… Read more »

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