David Cameron is trying to ‘appease Ukip’ say Germans
Angela Merkel ally casts doubt over prime minister’s pledge to avoid ever closer ties with Europe.
One of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s closest allies has firmly rejected David Cameron’s proposal to extricate the UK from the EU’s commitment to “ever closer union”, accusing the prime minister of putting it forward in a “desperate attempt to appease Ukip”.
The comments from Gunther Krichbaum, head of the German government’s committee on EU affairs, will cast serious doubt on Cameron’s ability to deliver on a pledge that he said a week ago was the “most important” change he wanted to see in the UK’s relations with Europe.
The remarks, backed by other senior German politicians, come before Thursday’s European elections in which the Tories are trying to defuse the Ukip challenge with promises to renegotiate the terms of UK membership in the runup to an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.
A week ago, Cameron said in a BBC interview with Andrew Marr that he would insist the UK was no longer bound by the commitment to “ever closer union”, which is one of the core principles of the EU rulebook.
But Krichbaum, a Christian Democrat, told the Observer that in his view the other member states would not agree to the demand, which was central to the operation of the EU.
“I can’t imagine that the member states would allow Britain to extricate itself from the ‘ever closer union’ clause. It looks to me like a desperate attempt on Cameron’s behalf to appease Ukip.
“‘Ever closer union’ is a key element in the fabric of the EU treaty, not least because it is the basis for enhanced cooperation between member states: for example, it allows nine members to come together and cooperate more closely, while other states can hold back. In that respect, Britain already has the opt-out that Cameron now promises: the whole thing is a phantom debate and raises the question about what Cameron really wants.
“It seems his flip-flopping on Europe is now starting to hit back at him. If you want more influence in Europe, then you need closer cooperation. Britain should try to exert more influence in the EU – I for one would welcome it.”
In his BBC interview, Cameron said removing the UK from the clause was his No 1 priority. “Perhaps the most important [thing] is getting Britain out of the clause that says the European Union must be committed to an ever closer union.”