Coffee House

Angela Merkel is the key to reform – but David Cameron still needs a European strategy

22 February 2014

10:01 AM

22 February 2014

10:01 AM

Angela Merkel is getting the full red carpet treatment when she visits next week. In a 24 hour visit, she’ll address both Houses of Parliament and meet the Queen. These honours are being heaped on her because she is Cameron’s indispensable ally.

Merkel is so vital to Cameron because as the most important person in the most important country in Europe she holds the key to his plan to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership. If she is prepared to offer encouragement to this, then Cameron’s plan is credible. If she’s not, then it isn’t. Several of the other big European players, notably the French, would be happy to cut Britain out of any future treaty talks by simply using an inter-governmental treaty rather than an EU one to define the governance of the Eurozone.


Number 10 is confident that Merkel will deliver some helpful words on the renegotiation during her visit this week. Cameron will then use her comments between now and 2015 to argue that his renegotiation plan is credible.

But given that, on Cameron’s own timetable, this renegotiation has to be finished by 2017, one has the sense that it is behind schedule. Cameron is nowhere near getting into specifics yet. Number 10 has to remember that however important the relationship with Merkel is, it isn’t—by itself—a European strategy. ​

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Conway

    Angela Merkel knows that Cameron is fully committed to the Projekt and she is for more Europe, not less.

  • Mynydd

    “Angela Merkel is getting the full red carpet treatment…………………she’ll address both Houses of Parliament and meet the Queen” Will all the other 26 heads of state get the same treatment, it will only need one to say no and that’s Cameron on his backside.

  • Two Bob

    The EU will allow Switzerland time to find a solution after the country’s referendum that approved the introduction of immigration quotas.

    Europe, however, cannot compromise on the principle of freedom of movement, officials from the bloc said on Thursday.

    The chief operating officer of the EU external affairs service David O’Sullivan described the impact of last week’s voting in Switzerland as “a serious… not a minor change which we have to assess calmly”. He repeated the EU’s stance that the freedom of movement is a fundamental core value of the union and as such is not open for negotiation……..

    Well there you go then. that core fundamental value is proving to be VERY unpopular.

    • Conway

      No matter how unpopular, they are determined not to change anything. Says it all, really.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      They have to assess it “calmly”, meaning behind closed doors and definitely after the May elections.

      Now, what could these EUSSR komissars possibly do to the Swiss?

  • Lady Magdalene

    Cameron’s renegotiation plan isn’t credible and anyone with an ounce of common sense knows it.
    The EU hasn’t spent 60+ years slowly and stealthily building it powerbase just to relinquish power now.
    The only way our “relationship” with the EU can be substantially changed is to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treachery and signal our intention to leave.
    Anything else is a tissue of lies …. but then when it comes to the EU that’s all we’ve had from the CONservative Party for the past 50 years.

  • HookesLaw

    It’s not a question of the plan being credible. There is a need for renegotiation and then a referendum no matter what the result. If voters do not like the result they can vote Out.
    The point of contention is the single market. Assuming we stay in and joining the EEA goes smoothly then leaving should not create any great problems. The EU and euro zone can go their own way. Both pro and anti EUers should be sanguine about this.

    This is the point … The Right is hammering itself to bits over nothing.

    • Rhoda Klapp8

      Would you care to restate that in clearer language, it looks like the ravings of an obsessive who has never read the rebuttals to all his hackneyed arguments and so keeps repeating them.

      • southerner

        It’s the socialist way.

    • Two Bob

      The fact is Cameron is not ‘the right’ and is not to be trusted.

    • saffrin

      If Cameron intended to hold a referendum he’d have done so already so his promise of holding one in 2017 has as much value as every other promise he’d made.
      As it is, Cameron hasn’t a chance in he*l of winning the next general election and he knows it.
      He’s as pro-EU as Clegg and Miliband.
      However, the EU referendum will be held in May 2010 whether those lying LibLabCon artists like it or not.

    • Makroon

      I think that you are as wrong as the professional doomsters.
      The more likely outcome is perpetual fudge and muddling through, which will suit the EUrocracy down to the ground. Actually, that would be a very British way of tackling the “Euro-crisis”.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    The UK fruitcakes are now clutching at the Tea Party activists from across the pond (how metaphorically appropriate) in a last ditch attempt to save their… well yes, what are they trying to save? This is becoming increasingly unclear – what is there that is worth saving?

    The state religion?
    Long gone. It is increasingly difficult to make out a ‘God-fearing’ electorate.

    Come off it tea party loons – this is imported vocabulary, that will not resonate here.

    ‘God bless the United States’?
    There we have it, that’s the winning line. God bless a United States of Europe. Suck it up, patriots (!)

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …can anybody translate this socialist nutter gibberish? It’s incomprehensible, under any nickname.

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        By the time you grasp the content it will be too late.
        Ah bless — or as they say in France: Tel Aviv!

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …none of your socialist gibberish has any content, laddie, under any of your multiple nicknames.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    That photograph at the top of this discussion topic is perfectly descriptive, too. Merkel’s cringing cuckold is subserviently attending a step behind and to her left .

    • Geronimo von Huxley

      Man can I say this man???? You are doing it again man — hating Conservatives is loving Labour man how do you do it man how do you convince the eejjits to tick your box man this is insane!!!!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …nurse ?!?

        • Geronimo von Huxley

          Man this is obvious man you don’t want Cameron to win anything man, no concessions, no vote no nothing man!!! So who in God’s name are you man??? You are a Labour double agent man it’s so obvious man!!!! When you’re not with us then you’re against us man!!! Insane!!!!

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …NURSE ?!?!?

            • Makroon

              I wouldn’t do that, the nurse will come for you first – whichever bolt-hole you are holed up in.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …you shouldn’t try to be funny, lad. You Camerluvvies take yourselves too serious to be any good at it.

          • Kitty MLB

            Utter balderdash, so someone
            who does’nt want Cameron to win
            is a Leftie double agent, wrong .
            Someone who does’nt want Cameron
            to win is a conservative and a Conservative.
            aLso there will never be any concessions,
            and stop saying the word man, its annoying.

            • Geronimo von Huxley

              Man, woman, what are you on man???? this guy here right I am telling you man he is a Labour double agent man I smell this man from where I am fracking man you guys just have no clue man!!! The US is fracking the UK is slacking man that is obvious man!!! Man, can i say this man how is this news man??? And this guy here man I know this to be true man he will just lovew to see the UK implode man how will the UK implode man??? Well be not fracking man that is obvious and by talking down the guy who is supposedly trying to keep the game together man!!! That is also obvious man so anyone talking against your Commander in Chief in troubled times man anyone like that is a Labour double agent man it’s that simple man!!!! Insane!!!!

              • the viceroy’s gin

                NURSE!?! NURSE!?! NURSE!!! Oh dear God NURSE!!!!

                ..and please bring the restraints!

                • Kitty MLB


              • Kitty MLB

                We prefer honour and integrity in the UK
                we will not support someone who pretended to
                be the heir to Thatcher just to get themselves when
                in reality they are Blair’ s little acolyte ( if the US
                had some integrity, were less showy, less racist,
                did not use TV adverts to besmirch the character
                of a decent and capable man-you would have Romney)
                In troubled times our PRIME MINISTER should
                be taking the lead instead of obsessing about
                personal goals and hiding behind the Lib Dems.
                Cameron has failed, quite simple.
                Also that man is not a Leftie, and you have no
                right to insult him by calling him so, so you apologise. You are such
                a fool that you think that only Labour are against
                the camservative party with its little yapping Pavlov Dogs.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Frau Merkel knows that dave doesn’t want to leave, she also knows that he couldn’t manage a majority against mad Jock Broon, she knows his heart isn’t in it, she knows that he is unlikely to win a majority next time.

    What possible incentive does she have to offer dave anything? She sees a pro-EU coalition in power here with the prospect of a pro-EU party winning in 2015 or a pro-EU coalition taking the place of the current pro-EU coalition. Hollande wont even review competences.

    What exactly does dave think he can cook up? Will Frau M be dazzled by his shiny face?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …she’s extracting concessions, you may depend. Dave is just doing his usual, using his office to bolster his own political position.

  • Smithersjones2013

    What an indictment of the failure and dereliction of our political class that the most important person involved in a critical political initiative happens to be a foreign leader and one of a country that was our greatest enemy of the 20th Century and a major cause of the two most dreadful wars in human history.

    It only goes to show what an absurd piece of delusional fakery Cameron’s EU sell out is.

  • Trapnel


  • Eyesee

    For God’s sake, how many times? What negotiations?? Negotiations take place between two parties trying to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Who in the EU has suggested they have any intention, whatsoever, of negotiating? No one, not a soul. Several have said they won’t, though. So Cameron is either stupid, or scamming us. Take your choice, but they are the only ones available.

    • Frank

      Agreed, mind you, Dave has repeatedly said that whatever the outcome of the vote in the EU referendum he will not give notice to the EU.
      You also have to work out whether Dave will be in power in 2017 – doubtful.
      You then have to wonder if Merkel will be in power in 2017 – increasingly doubtful.
      You then have to consider whether the Euro will still be a recognised currency in 2017 – haha.

  • Tony_E

    There is no chance of renegotiation. Only a new treaty would give us any opportunity and the EU has proven that it will go to any lengths to avoid one, at any costs to the southern EU states that are suffering inside the Eurozone.

    There is only two possible outcomes (unless we join the Euro). In the long run its either Norway style – ruled by Europe on all trade issues but with no voice and a higher democratic deficit (though a lower contribution financially), or article 50 and out.

    The reason is simple – EU negotiations are a pork barrel – we have nothing to offer the members in the other states except higher contributions and the British public will not take that .

    • Lady Magdalene

      Norway DOES have a voice in the EU. Norway is part of the discussions on the single market which take place whilst the EU is developing its proposals.
      Norway also has a voice in the WTO where many of the decisions on global trade are really made. The UK doesn’t .

    • Conway

      Lord Stoddart has discovered that those who have trade agreements with the EU are not obliged to adopt all the EU regulations.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Maybe while she is here somebody should also ask her how she would react to a “Yes” vote in the Scottish referendum.

    Would she be on the side of EU countries that were inclined to make life as difficult as possible for a breakaway Scotland, pour encourager les autres?

    Or would she be prepared would throw her weight behind an attempt by Cameron and Salmond to get the EU treaties changed through Article 48 TEU, so that Scotland could make a seamless transition from being in the EU as part of the UK to being in the EU as a new member state in its own sovereign right, and if so at what price?

    Or would she deny Scotland that shortcut, but be prepared to use her influence to ensure that Scotland could get back into the EU by the long Article 49 TEU route, at the usual price imposed on all new member states?

    One thing is for sure: if the Scots did vote for independence then that would turn Cameron from someone who was boldly demanding EU treaty changes to get powers back to the UK from the EU to somebody who was pleading for EU treaty changes just to deal with the consequences of the break-up of the UK.

    • Wessex Man

      Close our borders to ther north as well as the sieves to the south, west and east! better still a new Nigel Wall from sea to sea!

  • English_Woman

    Merkel has as much power as the heads of states of of other members. She does NOT have the power to give the UK ANY POWERS BACK. Cameron knows this. Its another propaganda stunt, all meant to keep us hanging on until the EU elections. If he really wanted to renegotiate, it takes three words. “Invoke Article 50”.

  • swatnan

    What a relief … so different from Mrs T.
    The trouble with Mrs T was that she ran Britain like a Grocer’s Daughter, whereas Frau Merkel runs Germany like a Stateswoman, and is not divisive.


    Even IF Merkel makes concessions Hollande adamant there will be no change.

    Excellent – Roger Bootle MD Capital Economics (ex-Oxford don) has said being linked to EU is like being ‘chained to a corpse’. That was before France went into deflation following other countries. Once consumers become convinced that prices will be lower next year it can take 10/20 years to get the economy out of it – see Japan! Also the value of the economy shrinks so the debt:GDP ratio gets worse – see the Arc of Depression across southern Europe!

    • colliemum

      That corpse will pretty soon start smelling, thanks to the EU doing their best to get Ukraine into the fold.
      The Ukraine is close to being bankrupt and need billions – now. Guess who’ll be paying …


        The problem is that the Euro has taken the South down & it is spreading to the core. Many countries have had problems like S but the IMF always prescribes DEVALUATION & DEFAULT as well as austerity. These kick start the economy & get the debt down to a doable level. Even the S governments have not grasped this let alone done it.
        Unemployment is 27.8% in Greece 26% in Spain. This is like the the Gold Standard in the 1930s where those countries that didn’t come off didn’t recover. US has 1/4 unemployment! It was WW2 that got the economies going again.
        It’s Denis Healey ‘If you’re in a holstop digging’.
        You probably won’t be able to grasp that these governments & the EC are doing completely the wrong thing & won’t be changing for years to come. Even when S leaves it takes 2 years for devaluation to work. Say leave 2017 + 2 years = 2019. We will not achieve our previous peak till 2015 ie 7 years after 2008 high point with GOOD policies. Thus we’re talking LATE 2020s.
        Also prices are falling in S & now France. It took Japan TWENTY YEARS & very risky policies to stop this because consumers know that something will be cheaper next year

        • Kitty MLB

          The southern countries will be forced to leave the
          EU eventually, There will be a smaller group of
          counties under Germanic control, and even more
          difficult for us to leave if Cameron is helping to ‘build’
          this new Europe and Merkel would not want to lose
          her biggest piggy bank.

    • Hello

      Hollande is just playing hard to get.

    • Makroon

      Is “Oxford Don” supposed to elicit feelings of respect or awe ?
      Bootle is a chump, selling out to the DT in his boring and habitually gloom-filled column (as his paymasters demand).

  • Noa

    Frau Merkel knows Cameron isTrinkspruch in 2015.

    • Trapnel

      Hier Hier!

    • dalai guevara


    • telemachus

      I think you mean prosit
      She may wish to trinkspruch him on Thursday

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      Oh yes, I get this riddle simply because it’s my line.
      Hovis or Warburton?

  • Bert3000

    Cameron’s strategy is to lose the next election.

    • Lady Magdalene

      Just like his strategy at the last one was not to win it.

    • Conway

      I’m sure Cameron has a nice cushy number lined up in Brussels along with a seat on the red benches.

  • JoeDM

    The only “European strategy” of any value is an exit strategy.

    • Hello

      The practical implications of actually having to go through a two year negotiation period with a club of countries who, to their own advantage, will be quite happy to fuel uncertainty by leaking and public stating “red lines” isn’t really worth thinking about. If that’s your game plan, then it’s not a very good strategy. We’d spend two years firefighting nonsense, and being on the back foot for that long makes a habit.

      Exit is not a strategy. The incessant entertainment of that idea is why we have no strategy and why we keep getting dragged further into the EU, because the EU does have a strategy and while the UK’s eurosceptics bicker about bananas, olive oil and exit the EU is steadily executing.

    • telemachus

      No no no

      This is our opportunity

      Remember Waterloo

      Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt joined with our very own Wellington to stick it to the French

      So Merkel and Cameron can get to gether to roll back the tide of French dominated Brussels and move to a mutual benefit collection of nation states
      And there is considerable benefit of this association

      • Makroon

        Nah, Ms Merkel likes Cameron, there is no doubt about that, and probably shares his ‘political world view’ such as it is, but just like last time, when the time comes to speak up and bring the recalcitrants into line, she will do what she did last time – stay schtum, and allow the French and the bureaucrats to kill the “reform agenda”.
        Ms Merkel is a ditherer and not to be trusted.