Camerkel! A love affair at the heart of Europe

Who'd have thought it? The German Chancellor and our own Prime Minister in tune on the EU budget. Jane Merrick and John Rentoul examine an unlikely political romance and wonder – how long will it last?

Perhaps it's their shared love of Midsomer Murders. Or maybe they have been drawn closer together by the realisation that their nations' football teams are not quite the giants they once were. But out of the political stalemate of the EU budget summit has emerged Europe's hottest new item: Camerkel.

In truth, Angela Merkel and David Cameron's new alliance is for pragmatic, mutually beneficial reasons, rather than admiration for the way DCI Barnaby deals with the high murder count in Midsomer. The German Chancellor came to the rescue of Mr Cameron on Friday by showing sympathy for the Prime Minister's plans to slash the cost of Brussels bureaucracy. The talks fell apart when Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Britain said the £786bn deal on the table, proposed by the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, was not acceptable. But it was Mrs Merkel's backing of Mr Cameron that mattered most.

Diplomats and observers said the new alliance between London and Berlin was "important" and "significant" and, even if it may not last until EU leaders come together again to agree the budget in January and February, it was the most significant thing to emerge at the two-day summit.

Senior German figures believed it was "completely unacceptable" that attempts were made by MrVan Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, to isolate Britain during the talks. Mrs Merkel backed the principle, if not the scale, of the PM's calls for cuts to the EU budget.

In doing so, she distanced herself from the Socialist President of France, François Hollande, who favoured higher spending. While the Franco-German alliance is the most powerful in Europe, relations between the centre-right German Chancellor and the left-wing French President are not the same as they were when Nicolas Sarkozy was at the Elysée.

In turn, Mr Cameron needed backing from fellow EU leaders to show to his audience back home that he was not isolated. He has struggled to hold sway in Europe since becoming Prime Minister, and his relations with Chancellor Merkel were already strained after he ordered the severing of ties between Tory MEPs and those from her party in 2009.

Mrs Merkel's reasons for backing Mr Cameron are, say diplomats, in part related to her desire to be seen as the "saviour of Europe", which would help her in next year's German elections. One observer said: "Merkel will play the card of 'I am the German Chancellor who saved Europe'. She cannot be seen as fighting to save the eurozone at the same time as having a spat with Cameron.

"There is a 19th-century view of the importance of the balance of power – Germany still believes in having the British in Europe as a counter-balance. There is the German philosophy wanting Europe to be a Europe of peace."

German-born Mats Persson, director of Open Europe, an independent think tank calling for reform of the EU, said that on a personal level, the two leaders get on well together, but it was also "important to be seen to be building a bridge". He added: "Britain and Germany have a few interests in common. Paris and Berlin failed to reach a common position. Berlin leaned more towards London. Cameron got a bit of sympathy for administration spending from Germany. A small amount, but it is quite important. Both Germany and Britain are in favour of prudent use of public finances." This week, Open Europe is launching a partnership organisation, Open Europe Berlin, in the German capital – underlining the importance of Berlin-London diplomacy.

The leaders' relationship has been something of a rollercoaster: after the spat over their MEPs, Mr Cameron tried to win the Chancellor over by giving her a box set of Midsomer Murders on her visit to Chequers in 2010. At their first G8 summit together, in June 2010, they shared a beer while Germany hammered England 4-1 in the World Cup.

A month ago, in the run-up to the budget summit, relations were fraught when the two held talks in Downing Street. Some of Mrs Merkel's closest advisers are known to dislike Mr Cameron intensely. So how long can Camerkel last?

An observer said: "At some point patience in Berlin with Britain will run out. The Franco-German alliance remains the most important axis in Europe. This is a temporary alliance. If there is a new political treaty, further down the line, everything will change. The French and Germans will take the view that Britain has to sort itself out."

Blair: 'Britain must stay in EU'

Tony Blair is to mount a staunch defence of Britain's membership of the EU this week, insisting that it is vital to the future economic prosperity of the country.

The former PM, in a speech in London organised by the pro-European group Business for New Europe, will outline why Britain needs to be at the "top table" in summit talks or risk being consigned to the sidelines.

Mr Blair's intervention comes amid growing Euroscepticism in the UK; a poll for The IoS last week showed six out of 10 voters would consider leaving the EU. It will also be seen as a veiled swipe at David Cameron's handling of EU budget negotiations last week. In 2005, Mr Blair chaired negotiations on the EU budget in one summit, while this time EU leaders are forced to reconvene in the New Year.

Mr Blair will highlight figures to show the importance of Europe to Britain, including that 47 per cent of UK exports go to EU states, and that 50 per cent of foreign direct investment to the UK comes from the EU.

John Rentoul

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
books The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?