Merkel to UK: don’t quit EU
Ahead of her arrival in Britain this evening for talks at No. 10, Angela Merkel has just told the European parliament: “I’ll do everything to keep the UK in Europe as a good partner and that’s why I’m going to London.” She said being “alone in the world” would not be good for Britain and the country would “not be happy” isolated in the world. She talked about Britain’s liberation of Germany from the Nazis and said that she “could not imagine Britain not being part of Europe.”
But it’s a measure of how thoughts of UK exit from Europe are crossing people’s minds in European governments that the normally hugely cautious German chancellor openly engaged with an idea that’s been pretty much verboten for EU heads of government to talk about.
Der Spiegel last month reported that the chancellor along with other senior figures in the German government was increasingly frustrated by the UK ‘s stance in EU negotiations and might be resigned to Britain slipping out of the EU.
The article compared David Cameron’s appearance at EU summits to the grumpy old men on “The Muppet Show,” turning up but complaining about everything they see.
Chancellor Merkel clearly didn’t want that impression to linger although by engaging with the whole idea of “Brexit” as it’s been termed she risks fuelling the talk.
She was responding to a provocative speech from the UKIP leader and MEP Nigel Farage in the European parliament.
He said that when she meets David Cameron this evening Mrs Merkel should ask him for “an amicable divorce.” Quite a few MEPs from other countries laughed – Angela Merkel’s face was stoney.
Other MEPs used Chancellor Merkel’s appearance at the European parliament to call for an increase in the EU budget and the cancellation of the UK rebate and when Mrs Merkel meets David Cameron tonight she will have those calls at the front of her mind.
If it was up to Mrs Merkel herself, she’d have little problem backing an EU budget real terms freeze (David Cameron’s demand) but she wants at deal at this month’s summit and she knows other net recipient countries want an increase.
A consensus role for Germany
She sees Germany’s role as trying to achieve a consensus which means not sitting alongside Britain in the negtotiations but somewhere in between the UK freeze demand and the EU Commission 5 per cent increase demand.
David Cameron looks like a man heading into the EU budget talks in two weeks time with precious little negotiating room – maybe none at all.
He’s acknowledged that EU partners won’t sign up to a cut in the EU budget.
He’s pledged to veto any increase.
So he must bring the negotiations down almost slap down in the middle of a real terms freeze, nothing more or less.
One Whitehall source compared David Cameron’s challenge at the November summit to trying to land a helicopter on a handkerchief.
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