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While financial markets have become increasingly bullish on the outlook for Europe, cheered by strong and broad-based growth and the victory of the pro-European Emmanuel Macron in France’s high-stakes presidential election last year, international investors have a blind spot: the looming departure from the international stage of the two dominant figures in European politics and finance.

Given how ultra-sensitive markets are about the normalisation of monetary policy, mounting speculation about a Weidmann-led ECB at a time when Europe’s central bank is removing stimulus could be the trigger for renewed concerns about the sustainability and integrity of the euro zone.

The turnaround in sentiment towards Europe since 2012 owes much to the policies of Merkel and Draghi.

This one-two punch of “Super Mario” and “Mutti”, as Draghi and Merkel are often nicknamed, put a stop to the euro zone debt crisis and paved the way for the bloc’s impressive recovery.

Yet over the past couple of years, and particularly since Germany’s election in which Merkel’s party suffered its worst result since 1949 and the far-right Alternative for Germany party gained nearly 13 per cent of the vote, the Merkel-Draghi effect has begun to lose its potency.

Brexit will have consequences not only for how the EU will function going forward but also for how transatlantic relations will evolve.

In a nutshell, Europe is on the threshold of a systemic adjustment comparable in scope with that seen in 1989–1990.Investors would be well advised, therefore, to start to position themselves for a euro zone without Super Mario and Mutti.As the procedure for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU gets under way, the rebalancing of the EU’s institutions and economy that will follow promises to be nothing short of revolutionary.Draghi single-handedly put an end to the panic in euro zone government debt markets by pledging in July 2012 to “do whatever it takes” to preserve the integrity of the single currency area.Merkel, who supported Draghi’s plan to effectively backstop the bond markets of Italy and Spain (Europe’s third and fourth-largest economies) and warned that “if the euro falls, Europe falls”, gained the trust of her nation’s taxpayers by insisting that any German-led financial support for southern Europe’s vulnerable economies must go hand in hand with tough economic reforms.Not only is her Christian Democrat party blaming her for its humiliating performance in the election, Merkel is under fire for making too many concessions to the opposition Social Democrats in her bid to form a coalition government.Many in her party are now openly saying that the woman who has governed Germany for the last 12 years, and who is still held in high regard abroad for standing up for liberal values in a Trumpian world, needs to pick her successor.Then, the winding down of the Cold War and the decomposition of the Soviet empire ushered in a fundamental reframing of what constituted Europe, as NATO and the EU moved Eastward.Today’s process of reorganization is likely to be anything but orderly.Furthermore, rather than yielding a clean-cut division into the EU’s West and East, the transition will have to factor in deteriorating security along NATO’s Eastern flank.That will make clear regional alignments along economic priorities difficult to sustain when Europeans are confronted with the security imperative of deterring a resurgent Russia.

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