Der Speigel has published a fascinating write-up giving last week’s extraordinary events from Angela Merkel’s perspective. Specifically, it seems, she’s had enough of Jean-Claude Juncker, the egregious president of the European Commission, and has told him to bow out from future negotiations with the UK. She’s fed up of him insisting that Britain rushes to invoke Article 50. Indeed, her “utmost concern,” says the magazine, is “giving Britain as much time as possible” for an orderly transition. Here’s an extract:-
At 1 p.m. on the Friday after the Brexit referendum, Merkel makes a statement to Berlin journalists in which — in contrast to Schulz — she does not demand a rapid British withdrawal. One shouldn’t “draw quick and easy conclusions from the British referendum that could further divide Europe,” she says.
From Merkel’s point of view, the crisis is one for European member state leaders to address. She sees the idea of “more Europe” as being the intensification of cooperation between EU governments, not the transfer of yet more authority to Brussels.
After Merkel speaks with Juncker on the phone that weekend, her belief that the Commission president is more a part of the problem than a part of the solution doesn’t change. The chancellor believes that Juncker’s appetite for power is one of the reasons why the British have turned their backs on Europe.
Interestingly, even Wolfgang Schäuble is now starting to talk about the overall “message of Brexit” – which is that democracy matters, and nation states ought not to have their sovereignty handed to Brussels.:-
Merkel coordinates her approach with her powerful finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, who in the past has always presented himself as a passionate European in contrast to Merkel, the technocrat. But now, the two are in agreement. Simply calling for “more Europe” plays into the hands of Euroskeptics, Merkel says at a previously planned Friday meeting of CDU and CSU leaders in Potsdam. Those who are now demanding more integration, particularly in the euro zone, didn’t understand the message of Brexit, Schäuble believes.
And as for Juncker?
On Tuesday evening, EU heads of state and government come together for what could be their last supper together with Cameron. On the following morning, they make clear to Juncker that they will be taking the lead in the exit negotiations with Britain. “But that is the Commission’s responsibility,” Juncker protests. “Jean-Claude, we have been elected, you haven’t been,” is the rejoinder from several prime ministers and heads of state.
By George, I think they’ve got it.