CDU source: Cameron wants Germany to blast UK out of Europe
David Cameron is like one of these “suicide by cop” people, a senior figure in the CDU told me. For the uninitiated, he was referring to people who behave erratically and threateningly with the intention of getting the police to shoot them. My contact felt David Cameron was waving his gun around and shouting anti-European abuse in the hope that the Germans, as senior cops of the EU, would pull the trigger and obligingly blast him out of Europe. We won’t oblige, was the message from this CDU figure; David Cameron needs to sort out for himself whether he wants to stay in or leave Europe.
In Berlin, you pick up a developing anger and frustration with the UK. Bundestag members I spoke to complain of British “cherry-picking,” Britain wanting to be a “tax haven” and being “too individualistic and self- interested” in negotiations to the exclusion of all else. Unless things change, they warn, David Cameron can expect to know what Angela Merkel’s cold shoulder feels like (he has some experience, she refused contact for a while after David Cameron took the Conservatives out of the EPP grouping in Europe that included her CDU party).
In Berlin, you hear again and again people saying that the UK veto at last December’s EU summit has made the German government look at Britain differently. The veto was regarded as reckless self-indulgence by many here when the Eurozone was trying to put out a fire. It’s been compounded in German eyes by Britain’s behaviour since. The EU Budget summit starting on Thursday could yet see a deal – EU sources are encouraged that David Cameron has never put a specific number on what represents a real terms freeze in his eyes (“there are at least 20 ways to fudge those numbers,” one EU source said). But if Britain were to veto agreement at that summit relations could plummet rapidly.
Is London panicked by all this? There’s a view you hear amongst senior figures on the EU case that thinks Angela Merkel may yet allow some repatriation of powers, wouldn’t want Britain to leave and isn’t the pure EU integrationist she sometimes appears as.
To get some feel for who might be right and where Angela Merkel sits, I’ve been to her childhood home in the old East Germany – you can watch the report below.
She learnt not to share her thoughts in the old GDR police state, growing up near to the largest Soviet airstrip in Europe. That makes even those with claims to be close to her unsure of exactly what she thinks. It makes it even harder for other countries negotiating at the EU.
She’s methodical, very much the scientist she became in the East. She travels ideologically light – too light for some more passionate Europhiles. She appears (London has noted this) to have taken a step back on Eurozone banks in October having given the appearance of taking a step forward on Eurozone banks in June.
Angela Merkel is certainly something of an accidental integrationist – like many Easterners, more Atlanticist in outlook than those with their origins in the old West Germany, more sceptical of big ideological projects. When she began this current administration, the Berlin foreign policy punditry gathered to analyse her Europe policy only to discover there wasn’t one.
She’s had to create all sorts of mechanisms since then to deal with the economic equivalent of the Cuban missile crisis. Where exactly she will take European integration remains blurry. But rather like the zig-zag of a First World War German trench, the line does seem to move in a certain direction. And the urgency of whatever she’s doing at any particular market-pressured point, means she doesn’t appreciate distractions or obstacles.
Chancellor Merkel has just told the Bundestag she doesn’t know if there will be deal this week in Brussels on the budget or whether everyone has to come back to talk again early next year.
British sources acknowledge that Angela Merkel is “reassessing Britain” at the moment. The UK delegation will travel to Brussels knowing that every delay, every annoyance plays into that reassessment.
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