John Redwood’s latest blog discusses Germany’s shifting attitude towards the European project
German enthusiasm for a United States of Europe has been a given of the European project. Mrs Merkel is probably allowing herself a little private celebration that once again she has quelled rebels over lending money to Greece and has persuaded her anti bail out Finance Minister to back her and refrain from playing to the no more loans gallery. She probably knows that in practice money lent to Greece is going to be written off or placed on the never never in a way which makes it effectively a grant. She also knows that the German people are not ready to approve grants to Greece.
Just as one problem recedes temporarily, another arrives in her In tray. Germany wants some migrant labour, as its population is falling and its economy is capable of generating extra jobs. The shock news that Germany might accept 800,000 refugees this year shows the scale of the problem now confronting the EU’s rulers. Germany may well be tolerant and friendly toward migrants for the most part, but the pace and size of this migration stretches even well run administrations trying to register, help and house all these new people. There are those in Germany who now say this is too many too quickly, and despair of the lack of proper border controls elsewhere in the Union that allows so many to travel through their countries to reach the German promised land.
Mrs Merkel does what is now a reflex action for German Chancellors under pressure in the EU – she picks up the phone to the French. On this occasion she wanted to discuss changes to the Schengen agreement on open frontiers. This response is somewhat different to her initial response to the UK’s proposal that we gain more control over EU migrants into the UK when she claimed to be a resolute supporter of free movement or completely open internal EU borders. Now German public opinion is on the move, maybe reform is possible after all. Germany seems to be considering reimposing proper German border controls, with German decisions on who should be admitted, if the rest of the EU both fails to control their own external borders properly, and fail to take their fair share of in bound migrants to the EU as a whole.
The BBC likes to contrast the UK taking say 15000 refugees with Germany taking 800,000. The true comparison is with the UK taking 600,000 migrants in various categories, many of them coming under free movement rules within the EU. Maybe German can now understand our worries about the ability of a government to keep up with migrant demand for homes, school places, health facilities and benefits if they come on too big a scale.
The German people have not been told the truth about the price of creating a United States of Europe. Germany will need to pay a lot more to other parts of the Eurozone, just as West Germany had to pay a lot to East Germany when they amalgamated currencies. Germany will also continue to be the receiver of migrants of last resort if they continue with one EU country with a common external frontier policed by Greece, Italy and the others.
For now under Mrs Merkel Germany remains the leader of an EU on a wild ride to political union. If more of the German people rumble the nature of the plan and see just how much the Euro will cost them German opinion might shift towards more German answers to EU created problems. Germans do not seem to have the same commitment to helping Greeks that West Germans had to helping East Germans.
Click here to read this piece in John Redwood’s Diary.