When the most important national leader in Europe says that the EU should consider returning powers to some Member States, we all ought to sit up and take notice. In a radio interview Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, said that the EU should possibly “give something back” to national governments, rather than always persisting with closer integration. This lends some support to David Cameron’s plan to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU.
It comes after the leader of Netherlands also expressed support for a repatriation of powers. Whatever Merkel’s motivation for making those statements, it adds to the impression that there has been a real shift in how some northern European nations look at the EU project. This seems to signal a growing dissatisfaction with the status-quo, and seems to be driven by a concern that the relentless focus of integration could in fact lead to an unravelling of the union.
Still, for the United Kingdom, those comments are too little, too late. Angela Merkel’s words will not sooth the passions of the Eurosceptic movement and we should dismiss her suggestion that the EU could do with a little less integration. Cameron may hope for renegotiation but a timid “new settlement” will not satisfy people’s expectations. We do not want a small decrease in the competences of Brussels; we do not want to be ruled by an unaccountable cabal of civil servants and EU politicians at all.