This is the time to future proof the European Union, writes Geoff Kitney.
For Anglophiles, these are disconcerting times.
In their worldview, recent political events have jarred and turned upside down deeply held prejudices about the world around them.
Perhaps the greatest of these is the view that Britain is the superior model of almost all things, especially its political system.
It is an ingrained view that informed much outside opinion about the Brexit vote.
In the eyes of Anglophiles it was a wise, long overdue decision, delinking Britain from the ugly mess that is the European Union and its deeply flawed lead powers, France and Germany.
But suddenly, the shocks of the British and French election results have shaken these old prejudices.
Britain is stumbling into a Brexit fog. France is marching confidently forward. Germany looks as solid as a rock, anchoring hopes for European unity and progress.
The psychology behind the Brexit vote – the belief that the European project was sliding into ever-more certain failure and that Britain would be wise to set its own course away from the mess across the Channel – has been exposed as arrogant self-delusion.
The turnout for the British election – which saw a big increase in young voters compared to those who voted in the referendum – suggests that the new generations whose future will be shaped by the decisions taken now are suddenly keen to have a say in those decisions.
Probably, a second referendum on Brexit would be lost on the votes of the young, even though it is questionable whether a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government would want to change course back towards Europe.
But it would give young Britons the chance to make amends for leaving it to the older generations to make what increasingly appears to be a decision motivated by looking backwards with nostalgia rather than forward with realism.
Britain is stumbling into a Brexit fog. France is marching confidently forward. Germany looks as solid as a rock, anchoring hopes for European unity and progress
Young Britons may well take inspiration from what is happening in France.
Emmanuel Macron appears to be the embodiment of hope. His arrival appears to have generated the same sense of an historic opportunity to bring about change that greeted the election of United States president Barack Obama.
But then that ended badly, with hope mugged by the reality of the difficulty of bringing about lasting change in a world where uncertainty and partisan disagreement have taken a powerful hold since the upheaval and long-lasting fallout from the global financial crisis.
Macron enters the French presidency under the same burden of expectations that Obama was unable to carry through to a successful conclusion.
And, while it is tempting to see Macron – France’s youngest president – as representing the desire of the young French to claim their own future, the reality is that the French election result was quite different to the British.
In France, young people did not turn out in unusually large numbers.
Many that did voted for the Front National’s Marine Le Pen and her disruptive, populist, anti-Europe and anti-euro agenda.
Macron won on the votes of people already politically engaged but disillusioned with the traditional parties. They were voters who want change but saw no hope of it without an electoral revolution.
What this all means is that the undercurrents of politics in Europe are pulling in many different directions.
In Britain they were pulling backwards and are now spinning in a whirlpool of confusion.
In France they are pulling for change but against big obstacles, not the least of them being the forces for maintaining a status quo that suits them and rejects the claims of others for whom the status quo is a curse, particularly the unemployed and the “déclassé” (left behind).
Across Europe, there are struggles between the forces of progress and regression, of the kind that have taken Britain and France in opposite directions.
It seems, however, that the French result may have a lot to do with the British Brexit decision.
Macron’s election is a reaffirmation of belief in the European project and a rejection of the disillusionment that Brexit represented.
Macron enters the French presidency under the same burden of expectations that Obama was unable to carry through to a successful conclusion
For the outside world, this is an important message.
This comes as the European economy begins to regain strength, which increased confidence that the doomsayer view that the euro forever condemns Europe to mediocrity is wrong.
This is a good foundation for Macron to build his presidency. In the longer term, Macron’s challenge is to engage young Europeans in his project and to act in ways that make this rewarding for them.
The British general election result showed that the young can be stirred when they recognise that they have to fight for a future that their elders either cannot, or don’t want to see.
For Macron, here is an historic opportunity – to make his leadership of France and in the wider European Union a period which comes to be seen as a good time to be young in Europe.