Angela Merkel has waded into the Brexit debate. Her stance won’t surprise anyone – she hopes that Britain stays put. But what’s interesting about her intervention is that it comes after it seemed she was reluctant to speak out, for fear of helping the leave cause. The Sunday Times reported earlier this month that Downing Street believed such an expression of her views on Brexit would be counterproductive. Admittedly, when she made her comments today, she clarified that they were her personal view. They also appeared to be, to say it mildly, lukewarm. Here’s what she said:
‘Obviously, it is up to the citizens of the UK themselves how they wish to vote on the upcoming referendum. I’ve said repeatedly before that I personally would hope and wish for the UK to stay part and parcel of the EU. We have to develop those together with the UK and whenever we negotiate that, you can much better have an influence on the debate when you sit at the bargaining table and you can give input to those negotiations and the result will then invariably be better rather than being outside of the room.’
Her views are, in effect, a softer version of Barack Obama’s ‘back of the queue’ remarks. She says that Britain has more clout if it stays put in the EU. But what made her decide to speak out? Interestingly, her comments come a day after the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, intervened himself. He said other countries would effectively retaliate if Britain introduced a ‘points-based’ immigration system, by adopting the same model themselves, making it harder for Brits to work overseas. Aside from their stances on Brexit, what do Rutte and Merkel have in common? Both figures are known to be close allies of David Cameron. It seems that as the clock ticks closer towards June 23rd, the PM’s European friends are increasingly willingly to speak out over Brexit.