David Cameron hopes Angela Merkel will help him see off his party’s Eurosceptics. But she can’t and she won’t

Ms Merkel will tell Parliament that she wants Britain in Europe because it is the truth

Share

The “reddest of red carpets” will be rolled out for Angela Merkel’s visit to London this week. Not only will she be addressing both Houses of Parliament (the first German Chancellor to do so since 1986), she will also have tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. In between come talks with the Prime Minister – about Ukraine, of course, but also about the future of the EU. Hence the lavish welcome: David Cameron has backed himself into a corner and he hopes that Europe’s Iron Lady can extricate him.

Under pressure from squalling Tory Eurosceptics eyeing Ukip with increasing interest, the Prime Minister’s original intention to “repatriate” powers from Brussels morphed into a commitment to an in/out referendum in 2017 (assuming an election win in 2015, of course). The problem for Mr Cameron is that he has seen sense and wants Britain to remain in the EU; but, in order to campaign on that basis, he needs some high-profile success in his efforts to tip the balance back towards national governments. It is here that his famously cordial relations with Europe’s most powerful leader comes in.

The German Chancellor is certainly sympathetic. Notwithstanding her annoyance over Mr Cameron’s peremptory withdrawal of the Tories from the European Parliament’s conservative bloc in 2005, and his surprise veto of a key EU treaty at the height of the euro crisis in 2011, he is regarded in the light of a “naughty nephew” – or so, at least, some at Downing Street claim. Between the gift of a box-set of Midsomer Murders (a Merkel favourite) and the Cameron family invitation to the Chancellor’s country retreat at Schloss Meseberg, it would seem there is some real mutual warmth. But it is not just a matter of personal chemistry. Ms Merkel will tell Parliament that she wants Britain in Europe because it is the truth. It is almost as much in Germany’s interests to avoid a UK exit as it is in our own. The withdrawal of one of its weightiest members would be a body-blow to EU prestige and influence. We are Germany’s biggest trading partner and the two countries have a common conception of a more open, free-trading Europe. Ms Merkel also shares a number of Mr Cameron’s specific concerns, over excessive regulation, say, and so-called benefits tourism. Indeed, there are even whispers in Berlin about an offer of treaty changes (albeit on a limited basis).

But neither the Prime Minister nor the Eurosceptics should celebrate too soon. With the travails of the eurozone still so far from resolved, Ms Merkel has more pressing European concerns to attend to. More importantly, she cannot speak for all. There are 26 other states with which any changes will also need to be negotiated, and many of them want more Europe, not less. Most tellingly of all, there is little support from France. And, in fact, even Germany’s apparent concordance starts to disintegrate up close. Where Mr Cameron hopes for a rethink of the free movement of people to assuage immigration concerns, for example, Ms Merkel is a staunch supporter of the principle.

There was, has always been, and will remain an unbridgeable gulf between what Eurosceptics want and what Europe can or will concede. Angela Merkel could not change that, even if she wanted to.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

Special Needs Teaching Assistant

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Educational Needs Teach...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: unbuilt buildings, the new Establishment and polling on Europe

John Rentoul
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London