George Soros is not exactly an insurgent leader from central casting, but you certainly can’t fault the billionaire philanthropist for his frankness. “The EU is in an existential crisis,” Soros said in a speech in Paris this week, before adding: “Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”
With Italy compounding Europe’s woes in the wake of the Brexit vote and the rise of rightwing populism more generally, it takes nerve to choose this of all moments to launch a fightback for Europe. Yet this is precisely what Soros proposes. There’s an audacity about his approach that echoes the French general Ferdinand Foch’s message to his commander-in-chief: “My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking.”
What made that bold message in 1914 so splendid was that Foch went on to win his battle. But can Soros also win this political battle against the odds? Can those who want to preserve not just the European Union project but more specifically Britain’s association with it, win theirs? The heart says both that they must, and also that they can. The head says it will require more than bravado and Soros’s money.