Merkel tells Cameron she cannot satisfy all Britain's EU wishes


German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the British parliament on Thursday (27 February) she was not prepared to promise fundamental reform of the European Union for London's sake, but said the bloc did need some changes and that Britain should not leave it.

In London for a one-day visit at a time when uncertainty about Britain's future in the EU is rising because of a promise by Prime Minister David Cameron to offer Britons an in/out membership referendum, Merkel suggested she was ready to go some, but not all the way, to meeting some of Cameron's demands.

"Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment," Merkel said in English.

"Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed," she added.

Instead, Merkel indicated that she would back Cameron's desire to clamp down on abuse of the EU's freedom of movement rules when it came to welfare benefits, partially back his drive to rein in the European Commission, and that Britain would have a chance - along with everyone else - to submit proposals for reform when deeper integration of the euro zone happened.

"We need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice inside the European Union. If we have that we will be able to make the necessary changes for the benefit of all," said Merkel.

Under pressure from eurosceptics in his Conservative party and from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of European elections in May and a national vote next year, Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain's EU ties if re-elected and to give Britons an in/out membership referendum.

He hasn't spelt out all the reforms he wants, but has made it clear he wants to curb freedom of movement for poorer new EU member states, clamp down on pan-EU "welfare shopping", cut swathes of EU red tape, and improve competitiveness.

Merkel's visit is seen as a test of how far he is likely to get in persuading the rest of the bloc to sign up to those and other as yet unspecified reforms since Germany is the bloc's most powerful state and its biggest economy.

Cameron has so far garnered only limited backing for his reform plans among other EU states.

'Most important partner'

British Foreign Secretary William Hague earlier this week described Germany as London's "most important partner" when it came to seeking EU reform and the lavish reception Merkel is getting reflects that.

After her address to both houses of Britain's parliament, Merkel is due to have lunch with Cameron in his offices and then take tea with the Queen.

That pomp and circumstance contrasts sharply with an Anglo-French summit last month when President Francois Hollande and Cameron held a news conference in an aircraft hangar before sharing a low-key pub lunch.

Hollande poured cold water on the prospect of EU treaty reform saying it was not a French priority.

Britain's ties with Germany are warmer than those with France. Merkel and Cameron are both centre-right politicians.

Merkel has said repeatedly that she does favour EU treaty change. But she sees that as much more limited in scope than Cameron and primarily as a way of deepening euro zone integration.

"Only through close, binding coordination of economic policy can we avoid, in the longer term, suffering another deep crisis in the euro area. For this I believe we need to adapt the legal foundations of the monetary union in a limited, targeted and speedy way to stabilise the union for the long term," Merkel said.

Analysts say it is possible she might agree to a few British opt-outs when the treaties are eventually opened.

More broadly, her Christian Democrat party (CDU) wants a stronger EU political union, however, and she did not indicate that she would back Cameron's desire to give national parliaments a formal veto over European Commission proposals.

With Cameron trailing the opposition Labour party in the polls ahead of next year's national election Merkel will also pay a visit to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, on Thursday.



tony a's picture

In Europe Britain's non socialist background is hated & it's continually being marginalized by the socialist EURO club while its wealth & power are being stripped from the people by a combination of ideological fanatics and self-interested careerist politicians. Outside of Europe its free & democratic once again & one of the most powerful country's on Earth who also happens to be the EU's largest trading partner. Time to leave & regain our sovereignty so we the people can define our relationship with the new Europe that has emerged since the collapse of the EURO.

ariely shein's picture

""A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. ""
Winston Churchill

UK may seize the opportunity created by those difficult economic times and build an economy based on what UK can do and not of what can take from other>
This week I have been surprised by a mail I received:
The subject: ""57 maps that will challenge what you thought you knew about the world.""
The map number 36 presents the world map of countries England has not invaded.
I was suppressed seeing that of the 196 countries on the world today, there are only 22 of them that Britain has not invaded.

Thomas Navarro's picture

@tony a

You're kidding right ? There is nothing Socialist in the EU or the EURO, it is clearly far too tainted by British ideologies, hence why the Constitution was rightly rejected by us, French. The fact is the sooner the U-K will leave the EU, the better, because Germany will lose its formidable ally when it comes to destroy any social right.

United Alliance's picture

There was always a prablem with Continent which tries to Unite territories in it . If it's isn't on their interests then obviously it's undemocratic ! Britanicus pessimismus & uninterests always happen when things get states-united as winston churchill or george washington said .

Gerry's picture

I think Merkel was very kind and gentle in her speeches, actually. What was said was that yes, we still love you,but no, we won't love you forever and if you insist on leaving, you will just have to go.

Iwantout's picture

We all have opinions but there are two solid points we can all count on.

Merkel is obviously right in saying that closer euro zone integration is necessary, without the political structure necessary to support the single currency it must eventually implode.

The passing of the European Union Act 2011 requires a referendum in the UK if significant new powers are to be passed to the EU. No UK government will ever go to the UK electorate supporting such a vote because of the likelihood they will lose. After 40 years the EU has still to win any degree of political support with the UK electorate and the structures Merkel is talking about are very definitely political rather than matters which can be portrayed as purely economical.

Given this the UK can only act as a brake and source of frustration to the ambitions of the other states as fundamental treaty changes require unanimity.

The real question isn’t British membership or otherwise of a political union, that is realistically no longer an option, it is what trading arrangement can be agreed? In short success for both parties.

Gerry's picture

We all have opinions but the idea that the Euro must eventually implode is speculative and highly unlikely. Europe will not have a political union as such as the pride and independence of its individual peoples will continue to be reflected in their national parliaments. The efforts directed from Brussels are ultimately aimed at economic integration, freedom for the masses and standardization of industry. That would include the banking system. Personally i cannot see how the UK cannot negotiate a position among all that. The EU wants to conduct an education campaign in Ukraine to counteract the smear directed against it, this should be extended to the whole EU as many people are deeply confused about what lies waiting ahead.

an european's picture

@ Gerry

Who posted that the federal currency will implode ?!!?

Iwantout's picture

What I wrote was “Merkel is obviously right in saying that closer euro zone integration is necessary, without the political structure necessary to support the single currency it must eventually implode.”

So you need things like a mechanism for large scale fiscal transfers, budgetary discipline, a single centrally determined economic policy, etc. It is impossible to find any qualified commentator who regards the current political structures as sufficient to support the currency in the long term. Indeed even the leaders who founded the euro have openly stated that they did not put the required processes and arrangements in place. Jacques Delors is recorded as saying “Anglo Saxons said that a single currency without a single state would be inherently unstable, they had a point.” (02/12/11).

In other words, to protect the euro and prevent the currency imploding then you must integrate the states more. With permanent and deeper integration to the point that a single state has been effectively formed then of course the euro has ever chance of surviving. But that takes you back to my original point that it is impossible to see the UK as part of such a centralised political construct.

Eleanor's picture

You cannot say that you don't want UK as EU member state.
And I don't want Spain or France, or Portugal, so what would you say?
You want Albania, you want Georgia. But again, who is this who decides? Eurocrats? And who will pay for this luxury life of parasites?

Richard's picture

iwantout is quite correct when he states that - essentially - the eurozone either becomes in essence a single state or the currency will fail. No currency union has ever succeeded without a single state to run it. The forces that cause divergence in any economic area will invarably pull a single currency apart unless there is a strong centralising force in the form of government to counterbalance them.

For example, some States in the USA are almost permanent net receivers from the Federal Government budget. In effect they are subsidised by the rest of the States - this counterbalances the fact that they are locked within the US dollar, unable to devalue or decide interest rates that suit them because they are decided by the Federal Reserve which sets rates for the whole USA. High unemployment in such sreas is counterbalanced by increased Federal spending (for example, the placment of large military bases, awarding of contracts, the payment of social benefits at the Federal lelvel and so forth). These are the "fiscal stabilisers" are are nothing less than a direct transfer of wealth. It works because Americans see themselves as all being fellow Americans and such solidarity is politically workable.

The eurozone, on the other hand, is a single currency - but nothing more than that. All the members are in the straightjacket but there are no compensating forces: in fact, the Treaties specifically forbids them, largely at German insistence. It is the "transfer union" that causes such dread in Germany.

This is because the vast majority see themselves as being German, or French, or Greek - and not European first (if at all). There is no way that Germans would pay in taxes to be used to pay Greek unemployment benefits for example.

Of course, right from the outset these flaws were obvious and repeatedly pointed out - it was all dismissed as "anti European" and "xenophobia".

The euro was always a political project, designed to force the creation of a nation state called Europe on a public that would never vote for it. The idea was to get everyone into the euro, allow a financial crisis, then say that the only way to fix it was yet more "integration" - and the public would accept it because the alternative, the single currency dissolving, was even more unacceptable. In other words - "federate, or else".

It is the Monnet Method, every step towards the created of a country called Europe is disguised as being about economics. It is all political and always has been. The fact that "The Project" is causing misery and destitution on a vast scale means nothing - the end justifies the means.

The euro is only just clinging to life, as an act of political will and the ECB coming as close as it dares to breaking it's Treaty mandates.

Barry Davies's picture

Basically Merkel said:- get lost camoron I have my own problems in Germany and I'm not going to put my job at risk by supporting your lies that you want to change the eussr one iota.