'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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent