Angela Merkel’s speech today didn’t close doors on EU reform but nor did it open as many as some close to Cameron had hoped that it would. As the German Chancellor made clear at the start of her speech, she didn’t want to say either that Britain could have what it wanted from the renegotiation or that Britain could have nothing.
The German Chancellor talked of the need for a more competitive EU, suggested that she might be open to some changes on freedom of movement and offered the vaguest hint of possible treaty change. But, on the other hand, she made clear that reform in Europe would happen ‘step by step’ not in a big bang, in other words don’t expect the EU to look radically different by Cameron’s 2017 referendum date. She was also made it quite obvious that she wasn’t interested in any kind of special status for Britain inside the EU.
David Cameron’s life would be made easier if Merkel had been more emphatic about her willingness to address British concerns. But today was a reminder that Merkel, a canny political player, doesn’t intend to give-away more than she needs to at any one time.