'You are in for a disappointment,' Angela Merkel tells Eurosceptic Tories hoping for fundamental EU reform in speech to Parliament

Mrs Merkel is the third representative of the German government to be invited to speak to both Houses of Parliament since the Second World War

Political Editor

Angela Merkel dashed the hopes of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs today, by declaring that she would not support Britain if it seeks a fundamental revision of the EU’s governing treaties.

Addressing MPs and peers at Westminster, the German Chancellor sought to lower what she regards as the unrealistic expectations that Britain will be able to repatriate a raft of powers from Brussels before the in/out referendum on EU membership David Cameron has promised in 2017.

The most powerful player on the EU stage said: “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.”

But in a carefully balanced address, she added: "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 EU. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed.”

 

Mrs Merkel’s speech highlighted the headache that the Prime Minister will face in trying to “sell” continued EU membership to his own MPs. However,  she took a more conciliatory line later when she appeared alongside Mr Cameron at a Downing Street press conference.

While defending the EU’s tablet of stone on the free movement of people, she made clear Germany shared the British Government’s concerns about “benefit tourism.” That offered Mr Cameron a possible “selling point” to his own party and the British people when he seeks a new deal after next year’s general election.

The German Chancellor expressed optimism that a way could be found to keep Britain in the 28-nation club, saying this was “doable” and recalling that difficult negotiations on the EU budget had shown that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” 

But she admitted: "It is not a piece of cake, it will be a lot of work.”

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) at Buckingham Palace. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) at Buckingham Palace.
Cameron allies took comfort from Mrs Merkel’s press conference remarks, saying her toughest language  was reserved for the Eurosceptic MPs in her Westminster audience, rather than the Prime Minister.

She called for the EU to become "stronger, more stable and more competitive than it is today… United and determined we can bring our values and interests to bear in the world. United and determined we can serve as a model for other regions of the world. This and nothing less than this should be our common goal. I regard it as the task for our generation.”

Crucially, Mrs Merkel added: "In order to attain this goal we need a strong UK with a strong voice inside the EU.”

Mr Cameron emphasised his goal of wanting Britain to be “a positive player in a reformed EU” – one not shared by the many Tory MPs who want to pull out. He told the joint press conference: "I have great confidence the sorts of changes that we're talking about are achievable and will be achieved over the coming years.”

British Prime Minister, David Cameron (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) attend a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street. British Prime Minister, David Cameron (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) attend a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street.

Significantly, the pro-European minority of Tory MPs were quick to praise Mrs Merkel’s speech. Laura Sandys, of the European Mainstream group, said: “I was very pleased to hear her recognise the fact that by working with our allies, such as Germany, the UK is not only influential in Europe, but plays a key role in making the EU more flexible and competitive for the 21 century”.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats also welcomed her speech. Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “The gap between what Chancellor Merkel was offering, and what David Cameron’s Eurosceptic backbenchers are demanding, remains as wide as ever."

What Merkel said... and what she meant

“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… they are in for a disappointment.”

I didn’t get where I am today by rolling over and conceding what the other side wants before the negotiations have begun. Young Cameron will thank me later for lowering expectations.

“If we are serious about change, we will find the legal mechanisms to do so.”

David needs to wake up and smell the Kaffee. I am good but I am not a Wunderwerker. Rewriting the EU treaties would mean a veto for the Maltese and another ghastly referendum in Ireland. It cannot be done.

“A Europe without borders is one of the greatest achievements of European unification. All member states, all citizens benefit from this.”

That’s the sort of thing we continentals always say, but watch what we actually do. We imposed transitional controls on Poles, and you didn’t.

“It is also true that, to maintain and preserve this freedom of movement and gain acceptance for it from our citizens, even today, we need to muster the courage to point out mistakes and tackle them.”

Your Prime Minister wants to fight an election promising to restrict free movement of workers. This is contrary to the sacred creed of Europeanism, but “mistakes were made” could mean we don’t have enough freedom of movement or we have too much.

“Standstill may quickly turn into setback. Or to use a famous quotation of Winston Churchill, ‘To be perfect is  to change often’.”

This is what we know in Germany as a joke.

“We Germans shall never forget that we owe the happy and prosperous development of our country to the readiness of our European partners and friends to forgive.”

We Germans are very different indeed from you, and we look at the EU completely differently. I do hope that this will penetrate the Eurosceptic dreamworld in which many of you live. 

“United and determined … this and nothing less than this should be our common goal. In order to attain this goal we need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice inside the European Union.”

I will help your Prime Minister – if he is re-elected – to present cosmetic changes to you in a referendum so that you will stay and we can carry on as before.

John Rentoul

Read more: A red carpet for Angela Merkel – but don’t expect a ‘bag of presents’, Germany warns Britain
David Cameron hopes Angela Merkel will help him see off his party’s Eurosceptics. But she can’t and she won’t
Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the rather awkward case of the shadow moustache  

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links