‘Good for France!’ Gloating Macron ally welcomes Merkel’s likely successor Laschet

Brexit deal ‘limits’ UK’s ‘ability to be sovereign’ says Beaune

Mr Beaune, a key ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, made his remarks after Armin Laschet edged out Friedrich Merz in the contest to lead the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), paving the way for him to potentially take over from Mrs Merkel as German Chancellor when she steps down later this year. Mr Beaune told Welt Am Sonntag: “This is excellent news for France and for Europe.

“Armin Laschet has the sense for a European Germany.

“He is a friend of France and a committed European.”

Mr Beaune also took a sideswipe at the United States, suggesting the German federal elections scheduled for later this year were more important to Europe than the US Presidential election which saw Joe Biden oust incumbent Donald Trump.

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With Mr Biden due to be inaugurated on Wednesday, Mr Beaune pointedly added: “Now there are more stages to be done in the coming months.

“I think we will have to follow the elections in Germany with more interest than the American ones because they are more important for our continent and our country.”

Mr Beaune, a frequent critic of Brexit, ruffled feathers on this side of the Channel last month when he bragged that France would not see any shortages after the decision to prevent lorries travelling to Calais ostensibly to prevent the spread of a new strain of COVID-19.

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In response, former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told Express.co.uk: “The arrogance of these people knows no bounds.

“No Deal is better than an agreement with people that hate us.”

Mr Laschet, the Prime Minister of the North Westphalian region, emerged the winner following an online Congress during which 1,001 CDU delegates voted from a choice of three candidates: himself, Mr Merz and Norbert Roettgen, Germany’s health minister.

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He and Mr Merz moved through a second ballot after Mr Roettgen was eliminated in the first, at which point M Laschet edged out his more eurosceptical rival by 521 votes to 466.

Mr Laschet is sometimes referred to as “mini-Merkel”, and is likely to stick closely to her political positions.

Afterwards Mrs Merkel said: “Congratulations, dear Armin Laschet, on your election as CDU chairman. I look forward to our cooperation.”

Mr Laschet himself said: I would like to thank you for your trust.

“I am aware of the responsibility that comes with this position and I want to do everything so that we will get through this year together, as well as the state elections in just a few weeks time, and that we will ensure again at the general elections that the next chancellor will come from the Union again.”

In a reference to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who emerged the victor in the CDU’s leadership contest two years ago, but who stepped down last year after declaring herself unable to unite the party, he added: “I would like to thank AKK again for her work during the past two years.

“I would like to say again, those who remember how things were in 2018 almost a break-up of the multi-party alliance of the CDU and CSU.

“You fixed this with great engagement together with Markus Soeder.

“The fact we’re all standing here together like this is also due to you, thank you, the German CDU will never forget this.”

Mr Laschet’s reference to Mr Soeder is significant, given many Germans believe the latter, the leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) is the man best equipped to succeed Mrs Merkel as Chancellor.

(With additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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