With the hubbub about the visit of the German Chancellor visiting the UK for only seven hours, Keene thought it would be useful to look at how the UK is viewed from Berlin.
Whilst Chancellor Merkel’s visit captured the attention of the British political commentariat it only featured briefly in the German press. Marcus Theurer of the Frankfurter Allgemeine called the Prime Minister weak, saying that Scottish independence and secessionists from the European Union use populist rhetoric with little use of fact. Most interestingly is the sense of disbelief. “As unreal the scenario may seem from a foreign viewpoint, Great Britain could shrink to a Little England and pull up the drawbridge to Europe.”
The diplomatic editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine says that the German willingness to compromise with Cameron on treaty reform is not low but neither is it infinite. The problem does not seem to be one of a lack of will coming from the Kanzleramt in Berlin, but a poor awareness of what Cameron is asking for.
In a long piece the Frankfurter Allgemeniene cites a former Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Thomas Mattusek, as saying that whilst Germany would like to help Britain to stay in the EU, that Germany can only remain at the door and that Britain has to walk through the door itself.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine thinks that Cameron has weakened himself further and humiliated himself by placing too much dependence on Germany. This dependence is all the worse for the fact that Merkel will never be able to give Cameron whatever it is that he is asking for.
Merkel, despite winning a strong victory again, is in a grand coalition with the Social Democrat Party. Frank Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister is less inclined to give anything to the British Government on the UK than Chancellor Merkel.
Further problems remain because there are issues that both Germany and Britain will have to use up political capital to achieve goals aside from a treaty renegotiation. For example, both Cameron and Merkel seem to want to avoid a federalist President of the European Commission but the latter’s party the CDU have issued support for Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. See here for more detail.
However things pan out it is clear that as Chancellor Merkel said today in London, EU reform would not be “a piece of cake”.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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