EU capitals are missing the influence and sensibility of London on the Brussels decision-making process. The remaining 27 member states face some of the political project’s toughest decision as the post-Brexit soul-searching continues. Sweden’s Europe minister Hans Dahlgren said: “We are missing the UK as a big player and a close partner in those talks.
“We have to work even harder to reach our objectives.”
During its 47 years of EU membership, Britain provided the balance that prevented France and Germany exerting their influence over the rest of the bloc.
But now previous EU allies are without the strength of London at the negotiating table, or even simply providing a veto to hide behind.
Agata Gostynksa-Jakubowska, from the Centre for European Reform think-tank, said: “Countries like the Netherlands used to hide behind the UK’s back, hoping it would be very vocal while representing Dutch interests too.
“It was better to have another member state threatening a veto.”
Brexit has forced EU capitals, who share Britain’s attitudes towards free trade, spending and Nato, to rethink their strategy.
Some have spent the last three years canvassing potential new allies in a bid to bolster their strength at the negotiating table.
A diplomat said: “This is what we have basically been doing for the past three years now: talking to the other 26 countries and finding where we have similar views – and where we did not realise we have similar views.
“That has been a political priority.”
Ireland is another country seeking to reposition itself in the bloc, after EU membership helped Dublin and London heal a troublesome relationship.
Leo Varadkar has also been invited to join a meeting of the regional Nordic-Baltic eight group.
The Irish prime minister joked: “They said: ‘You don’t have the UK any more, we don’t want you to be alone in the room’.”
The EU’s smaller nations will face their first battle against France and Germany at this month’s summit of European leaders.
They will come together in the hope of reaching a deal on the bloc’s next seven-year budget.