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Schadenfreude – Angela Merkel’s UK visit promised little and delivered less

In her speech, Merkel addressed both Houses of the British Parliament in perfect English, she dispelled any illusion that Germany would make common cause with Britain’s quest for a new settlement with the European Union. The German chancellor wants a new treaty but hers is about reforming the rules of the eurozone – reports our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude

So the great German lady, Chancellor Angela Merkel, came to the United Kingdom and was red-carpeted all the way – through Buckingham Palace and both Houses of Parliament not to mention the lavish entertainment. Compare the treatment of her French counterpart, François Hollande, who got a pub lunch.

The British cunning plan was that Merkel would say pleasing things about a ‘new settlement’ with the European Union and back UK Prime Minister David Cameron in his – announced but yet-to-be-activated – campaign to repatriate so far unidentified competences from the EU back to Britain; or maybe it is back to all member states – none of whom has been rushing to say they want it.

There is anti-EU feeling in Germany but it has little to do with a balance of competences. In another of its miracles, Germany succeeds spectacularly financially and economically despite – or because of – membership of the union. However, German taxpayers resent paying for the unfunded spending policies of the southern member states. There is no rush to escape from ‘ever closer union’.

The German Constitutional Court ensures that EU law-making does not infringe upon the country’s constitution. Germans worry about EU migration and, like the UK, Germany has national rules about welfare benefits for immigrants. But they can live with it. In the upcoming choice on a new European Commission president, Germany backs the Luxembourger leader Jean Claude Juncker – a declared integrationist.

In her speech, Merkel addressed both Houses of the British Parliament in perfect English, she dispelled any illusion that Germany would make common cause with Britain’s quest for a new settlement with the EU. Merkel wants a new treaty but hers is about reforming the rules of the eurozone to ensure the prudent fiscal, and financial, management of its members. Anything else is a distraction. As a German spokesmen said before the UK visit, anything else is “not a priority”. All this was known before the visit. Is British diplomacy losing its grip? It is looking that way.

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