Senior German politicians last night rounded on David Cameron, criticising his approach to the eurozone crisis and warning they would not allow the UK to "get away" with its refusal to back a European financial transactions tax.
Speaking ahead of a meeting between Angela Merkel and Mr Cameron on Friday, the parliamentary leader of her Christian Democratic Union said "Britain had a responsibility to make Europe a success".
The intervention by Volker Kauder reflects growing hostility in Berlin to what they perceive to be Britain's intransigent attitude towards financial reform. Mr Kauder said: "I can understand that the British don't want that [a transactions tax] when they generate almost 30 per cent of their gross domestic product from financial-market business in the City of London. Only going after their own benefit and refusing to contribute is not the message we're letting the British get away with."
The transactions tax on shares and other financial dealings – also known as the Robin Hood tax – has been supported by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the European Commission. But, fearing the city would be unfairly disadvantaged, Britain has resisted its implementation unless it is copied by the US and other leading economies. In order for the tax to be adopted it would need the backing of all 27 EU member states. Asked about the remarks, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "There is clearly going to be a debate about Europe and the shape of Europe over the coming weeks, months and years. What we would say is that the crisis means that we should focus on the economics. It is very clear countries need credible plans to deal with their debts and deficits and we shouldn't be deflected from dealing with the structural problems in European countries."
Mr Kauder also claimed that Europe was now embracing Ms Merkel's solutions to the crisis by focusing on tougher fiscal discipline for indebted countries. "Now all of a sudden, Europe is speaking German," he said. "Not as a language, but in its acceptance of the instruments for which Angela Merkel has fought so hard, and with success in the end."