Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

An Old Couple in a New Setting: Franco-German Leadership in the Post-Brexit EU

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Abstract:  What are the implications of Brexit for the nature, role, and potential of Franco-German leadership in the EU? Brexit, we contend, is both an expression and a further cause of two broader underlying developments in the contemporary EU: First, a stronger and more prominent German part and position, and second, disintegrative tendencies in several EU policy fields and the EU polity as a whole. This, in turn, has major implications for Franco-German bilateralism and for Franco-German leadership in the EU. In light of a stronger Germany, a relatively weaker France, and significant centrifugal forces, the two largest EU member states must not only realign their bilateral relationship but must also act as a stabilizer in and for the EU. We show that during the EU’s recent crises, not least during the Brexit negotiations and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, France and Germany did exercise joint leadership. We also show, however, that major discrepancies persist between the two countries in particular policy fields and with regard to longer-term European objectives. Brexit, with its numerous calamities and implications, thus once again moves Franco-German leadership—and its shortcomings—to center stage in Europe. When it comes to leadership in the EU, there remains no viable alternative to the Franco-German duo. Yet, in order to provide constructive leadership and successfully shape the EU, the two countries must bridge substantial differences and be ready to carry disproportionately high burdens.

Keywords:  bilateralism; Brexit; Covid-19; EU; France; Germany; leadership



© Ulrich Krotz, Lucas Schramm. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.