Berlin to Brussels: exploring an EU deal without the UK
Just arrived in a cloudy Berlin. It was here that the plan to sidestep Britain in the EU budget negotiations appears to have been formed.
Brussels sources say that it was Berlin that asked the European Commission to look into how the 26 could make a seven-year budget deal without Britain at the end of this week
The Germans are no doubt testing the British and giving David Cameron a taster of what being sidelined might feel like. But this is far from being just pre-negotiations psych-ops.
In London, it is acknowledged that Britain is going into the Thursday/Friday budget summit with virtually no wriggle room whatsoever. David Cameron acknowledges the EU won’t vote for a cut, he says he won’t vote for an increase, so it’s a freeze or nothing.
The talks between Chancellor Merkel and David Cameron in Downing Street 10 days ago got nowhere, and her response on touching down back in Berlin appears to have been to kick off this alternative and pretty drastic approach.
If something like this happened, it would be an extraordinary step, mocking the British threatened veto and setting down a marker that Britain can’t stand in front of the eurozone tanks. It’s still a big “if” though - lawyers are poring over whether it would be within the rules and it’s not how European Council President Herman van Rompuy would probably want to play things.
When Angela Merkel told the European Parliament 10 days ago that Britain risked being alone in the world if she left the EU,tThe Sun reported her as begging Britain to stay.
In Berlin, they say she was trying to jolt Britain out of its unrealistic dreams of exit. Either way, Chancellor Merkel would like the EU budget done and dusted this week so Europe can concentrate on banking union and other union measures at the December summit.
In the analogy that’s caught hold with commentators and diplomats, she thinks she’s dealing with a fire in Europe and doesn’t intend to let the UK park its car in front of the fire station.
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