Whoever wins in Britain, Berlin will seal our deal. Regime change there will spell troubleby Paul Lever / May 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Early in the morning after his dinner with Theresa May on 26th April, an account of which was subsequently leaked to a German newspaper by his chief of staff, Jean-Claude Juncker made a telephone call to complain that the British Prime Minister was living on another galaxy. The call was not to Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council responsible for directing the Brexit negotiations. It was to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This illustrates where power in the EU lies. In the past, the so-called Franco-German motor provided Europe’s political impetus. Now Germany alone is at the wheel. That is not because it has set out to lead or considers itself entitled to do so—phrases like “manifest destiny” or “the indispensable nation,” which so easily trip off American tongues when discussing their country’s role in the world, would be anathema to any German politician. It is because the rest of the EU has chosen to follow. Germany’s economic strength, the attractiveness of its social model and the quality of its senior politicians have given it an unprecedented dominance in EU affairs. In the challenges of the sovereign debt and banking crises, Greece and the euro and Mediterranean immigration, Germany has provided the response.
Germany set the terms for David Cameron’s abortive re-negotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU and it is Germany that will determine the conduct and outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Any analysis of their prospects must start from an understanding of Germany’s own EU aims and how Brexit fits into them.
Germany has traditionally favoured something called a political union. But no German politician has ever spelled out what this union would look like. What German governments have consistently made clear is that it will not be a “transfer union”: there will be no big central budget, no common policies which require major expenditure and no pooling of member states’ debts. Germany’s energies are focused on dealing with the problems of the day. The only policies that Germany has proposed in recent times have been for tighter control by the European Commission of member states’ budgets,…