Coffee House

Why Angela Merkel is part of Cameron’s ‘Northern Alliance’

27 February 2014

8:04 AM

27 February 2014

8:04 AM

For a Prime Minister seen to have no real interest or clout in Europe, David Cameron is doing pretty well – and far better than this morning’s newspapers suggest. He has built around him an alliance of reformers, which I describe in my Spectator cover piece today (and discuss in this week’s podcast). It is what Cameron calls a ‘Northern Alliance’: the Scandinavian states, plus the Dutch and Germans. His friend and conservative leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, is all up for reform. Not a majority, by any means, but what they want – simplification of the EU and more powers for national parliaments – isn’t opposed. Last week Cameron met the European with good claim to be a thought leader on EU reform: Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister. He has a list of reforms, which he thinks can be implemented without Treaty change. And that the French won’t oppose it if it’s described as ‘simplification’ – they only care about the farm subsidies. Germany wants to keep Britain on board, so Merkel will acquiesce – she cares about keeping the show on the road. The Dutch plan, which could double as a British plan, is radical and doable.

And this is the problem. All this has come too early: Cameron doesn’t need a Northern Alliance now. He needs one just before his 2017 referendum, and ideally reform with a British rather than Dutch flag on it.  This is why he’s not really talking policy this week with Merkel, or last week with Rutte. He’s building an alliance, in preparation for when he needs one.


And by 2017, how many members of his Northern Alliance will still be there? The Swedish conservatives look set to lose the general election in September, Mark Rutte leads a volatile Dutch coalition and will be lucky to survive three years. Norway will still be in Conservative hands, but it’s not an EU member. Cameron’s re-election is, to put it mildly, not guaranteed. The one person who can be guaranteed to be there is Mrs Merkel – whose overriding concern is to keep the EU together.

The stars have aligned right now for Cameron’s ‘Northern Alliance,’ which is no small diplomatic feat. If his new friends are there for a summer 2017 deal, all of this quiet diplomacy will have paid off. But, as he knows, it’s a very big ‘if’.

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
  • Machina22

    Didn’t take long for that to get shot down by Merkel did it. Do you really believe half the rubbish you spin for Cameron, Fraser?

    May I suggest you go back a few Speccy issues and read the edition where you re-printed some past articles written and published during the height of Thatcher. Note how critical many of those articles were, despite her being a great PM. Now look at your current output and hang your head in shame. You’ve become a mouthpiece for an utterly pathetic leader.

  • dalai guevara

    We find that Angela Merkel, a Protestant scientist raised in the former heartland of the Hanseatic League, now governs the highly productive privatised family-run business of the Catholic South. Kaboom goes the Max Weber theory.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    So this is the marketeering scam the Camerluvvies have cooked up then, laddie?

    Including fatigues and a cutesy nametag? They’ve added in props, then? Well done the foreign political consultants and focus groups!

    I have to admit, you are a faithful propagandist. You dish it out exactly as the marketeers hand it over to you.

    • dalai guevara

      Three posts from you, all say nothing. You’re back to old strength aren’tcha?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …what are you blathering about now, lad?

        • dalai guevara

          You don’t like Hug a Husky Dave, we get that – but now you belittle Green Gove? This is hilarious, tovarishch. It’s too sad to witness your political stock in freefall. You just have to be someone backing the other side, it’s obvious, I suspected it for years. I was right (as always).

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …does your alter ego approve of your obsessions, lad?

  • Eyesee

    Westminster bubble chat, of no interest in the real world. As pointed out, Cameron wants an alliance for his political purposes, so it is all about Westminster. Merkel wants to keep the EU (as do they all I suspect) so there is no real reform agenda, just some search for personal gain. And the impact on us, little people? Same old rises in taxes to pay for the ever increasing state, more regulation to prove where power lies and less and less democracy, because our opinion doesn’t count. Leaving the EU would unshackle the UK and probably lead to great reform of the EU, not least against the Eastern members. The world is a global economy, run through wide ranging international bodies. The EU is a backwater of yesterday’s imperatives, desperately trying to form a Marxist state, when that too has failed universally. In an age of jets flown by computers the EU is trying to sell us its biplane.

  • swatnan

    Back to the Hanseatic League … but without Germany, which would rather stay in the EU. So Britain woul;d rather be a big fish in a small pond than work with equals like Germany and France. The Scandis and Dutch pops of abour 5-10m. Gemany France and Italy with pops of 70 m.

  • Kitty MLB

    Cameron’s Northern Alliance, Is this the cunning plan,
    With Merkel leading this alliance, whilst casually removing the southern countries.
    Smaller countries having their reforms , an even tighter group that will be practically
    impossible to break from.
    Maybe this is the reason why the so could referendum is so far in the future-all this
    dependant on his little spot of blackmail to try and win a election ! The plotting Cameron, so determined to make the EU work ( even when it should utterly break up ) its a pity
    he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for England.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “more powers for national parliaments”

    This is the same deceitful rubbish that members of the European Movement put in their letters to the press in support of the Lisbon Treaty, now being recycled by Hague who at least then pretended to be opposed to the Lisbon Treaty.

    It’s “parliaments”, plural, because it wouldn’t mean that our own Parliament could act on its own to block an EU proposal.

    The European Scrutiny Committee has produced a report saying that our Parliament should once again have the power to veto any EU proposal:

    But Hague rejects that: he just wants an extension of the present “yellow card” system whereby a group of national parliaments, plural, can join together to object.

    Just another form of transnational majority voting to decide our laws.

  • radsatser

    Northern Alliance sounds like a bus company in the style of On the Buses, with Merkel the wily driver, and Cameron the hapless and out of his depth Blakey.

    • Kitty MLB

      With Cleggie playing the part of Olive I suppose.

  • Tom Tom

    To see Cameron trussed in a US belt says it all. Hague will return from Washington with the new disc to be inserted inside Cameron with new platitudes. If the Us wants Britain inside the EU it will be inside the EU, if the US wants Britain to be outside the Eu it will be outside the EU. I do wonder what the 2015 Cabinet looks like and if Victoria Nuland is working on that ?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well spotted, that belt!

      • the viceroy’s gin

        No doubt, the Speccie kids are infatuated with their newly discovered meme and props, so I’d expect that tainted photograph to remain in use. Let’s see if they do a bit of photoshop cleansing on it, though.

  • Denis_Cooper

    What a load of tosh.

    Cameron has no “Northern Alliance” prepared to consider the kind of radical reforms that would be necessary to turn the EU into an acceptable international organisation in tune with the desires of the British people.

    • James Strong

      The UK will have to leave, then.

      • Andy

        I pray for it daily.