Mrs Merkel has, it would seem, well and truly smashed the dream so carefully cherished by the Conservative part of the Con-Dem coalition that their beleaguered government would gain a resounding victory over the EU.
Until Cameron’s ill-fated meeting with Chancellor Merkel, there appeared to be many who believed the Tory propaganda. The British people were on the verge of thinking powers could be repatriated back from Brussels to London. All it needed was a treaty change requiring unanimity. Britain would then threaten to veto whatever was proposed and miraculously the other 26 member states, and most significantly Germany, would agree to the UK’s demands.
David Cameron, naïve and ignorant of the EU, obviously expected the Anglo-German talks last week to lead to Germany accepting the British government’s position. Instead Angela Merkel has sent him away with a flea in his ear. The German Chancellor has, in fact, rejected Cameron’s plans to repatriate powers over social and employment policy.
The “Sunday Times” yesterday reported that Merkel had said Britain would only be allowed a special protocol so that it and other non-Eurozone countries would be exempt from any fresh changes. Should Britain refuse this offer and stick to its repatriation demands, the Eurozone would set up a separate treaty leading to the creation of a two-tier Europe, essentially the major Euro players and the rest. The most significant member of the rest would obviously be the UK.
Cameron and the Tories in the Cabinet really don’t want this version of German real politik. It would mean that the Eurozone – Germany, France et al – would make decisions on financial services without the UK being involved. Not only would this be extremely detrimental for the British economy, it would also be very bad news for Cameron and all those Conservatives in the City.
So where now for the Tory pledge to take powers back from Brussels? Unfortunately the days when Mrs Thatcher could wave her handbag and win concessions are well and truly over. We are all in it together and the only sensible view is to be in there and work to make the EU as good as it can be, as democratic as possible with public involvement at all levels of decision making.
David Cameron has now has to face up to the Euro demon in his own party. Arch-Tory Tim Montgomerie put it well on the Andrew Marr show yesterday morning. Cameron’s choice is between his pro-EU Lib-Dem coalition partners or the Eurosceptic majority in the Tory Party.
So will it be Government or will it be Party? It’s been a long time since a Prime Minister has faced such an impossible choice, a choice largely of his own making.