Willkommen Bundeskanzlerin! Angela Merkel flies in to London this week, and no one, with the exception of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, could be more welcome at 10 Downing Street.
David Cameron’s entire Europe strategy – and ability to keep together his party at the next election – depends on him winning support from the German Chancellor. The PM needs her help to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU on more favourable terms before his In-Out referendum planned for the end of 2017, which could see the UK quit Europe.
Rather than treat Ms Merkel to a pub lunch of potted shrimp, trout and apple crumble, as he did recently the French President François Hollande, Mr Cameron has invited her to address both houses of Parliament and to meet the Queen. He has also instructed his ministers and senior civil servants to spend much more time with their counterparts in Berlin.
Ms Merkel will say something helpful when she is here; she won’t fly 700 miles to tell the PM something he does not want to hear. The credibility of Mr Cameron’s Europe policy rests on her public support. Encouragingly for him, her new coalition is committed to EU treaty change and to making it harder for new migrants to claim benefits. She has also warmed to national parliaments having a veto on EU laws. Like the Conservatives, she worries that European public spending has run recklessly out of control. Red meat, then, for the right of the Conservative Party – although not enough to stop some of them from trying to open the emergency exit door at 36,000ft.
Ms Merkel has greatest clout on the Continent, where the UK has no chance of winning agreeable reforms without German help. That’s why Europhiles should also embrace Ms Merkel: for them, she remains the best hope of guiding the EU through its growing pains. Gute Reise, Angela.