Let's talk, Angela Merkel tells Cameron - but will she listen?

Merkel appears to offer an olive branch – but EU diplomats say she'll 'drive the hardest of bargains'

LAST UPDATED AT 08:58 ON Thu 24 Jan 2013

ANGELA MERKEL delivered a surprise response to David Cameron's EU speech yesterday, saying she is "prepared to talk" about Britain's demands for a renegotiation of powers. But is she willing to listen?

The Guardian notes the German Chancellor's intervention creates a "small breathing space" for the prime minister after he pledged to seek a new deal with Brussels and then hold an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU by the end of 2017.

Merkel, who reportedly chose her words with "great care", said Germany wanted Britain to be an "important and active" member of the EU. "We must always bear in mind that other countries have different wishes and we must find a fair compromise," she said. "We will talk intensively with Britain about its individual ideas but [it will take] some time over the months ahead."

However, she made no promises and European diplomats suggested she would "drive the hardest of bargains" with Cameron. The Guardian says Berlin remains "highly sceptical" of the prime minister's tactics as he seeks a repeal of the EU working time directive, a clawing back of powers from Brussels and more protection of British rights in the single market as eurozone countries unite.

The Daily Telegraph notes Merkel's "unexpected" intervention came after the Dutch government complimented yesterday's speech. while on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Finland’s Minister for Europe, Alexander Stubb, held out the prospect of re-negotiation when he said EU members could “take a few raisins out of the bun so long as it stays intact”

Before Merkel extended an olive branch, it had been assumed the prime minister's attempt to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership would be blocked by his fellow EU leaders.

French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius gave a taste of his country's view of Cameron's ambitions. "I'll take an example which our British friends will understand," he said yesterday. "Let's imagine Europe is a football club and you join. Once you're in it you can't say: 'Let's play rugby'." · 

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Britain is NOT special. quite frankly it is a pain in the arse. I hope that the Merkel and rest of Europe advise Cameron to toe the line or bugger off.

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