Angela Merkel’s statement yesterday was a big fillip to David Cameron’s European strategy as it suggested renegotiation was possible. One senior government source called it ‘as good as we could have hoped for’.
I understand that Merkel and her officials have indicated to the Cameron circle that they want Britain to stay in the EU and are prepared to consider Britain’s concerns. But Merkel does not wish to look like she is interfering in British domestic politics; she doesn’t want to appear to be endorsing the Cameron approach. Secondly, she does not yet know how much room for manoeuvre she has. If after this autumn’s federal election, she is Chancellor of a grand coalition with the SPD then we can expect Germany to be less receptive to Cameron’s demands post-2015. However, if Merkel is governing with one of the smaller parties, then a post-2015 Cameron will be in a stronger position. Also by that time, Merkel and Cameron will be the two veterans of the European scene.
If Cameron is Prime Minister after the next election and Britain does get its referendum, then 2017 will be an eventful year in European politics. There’ll be a British referendum, François Hollande’s re-election attempt in France and federal elections in Germany.