Angela Merkel charmed by Britain’s ‘naughty schoolboy’ PM in Brexit talks
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The outgoing German Chancellor, 67, is preparing to step down in 2021, having said she will not stand for a fifth term in office in Germany’s September 26 elections. Talk has grown in recent months about who will succeed Mrs Merkel as Chancellor after next month’s vote. Doubts have been cast over the candidate from her own conservative CDU party, while recent polling has boosted the Greens’ hopes that they can control the Bundestag.
Mrs Merkel, who became Germany’s first female leader in 2005, has seen her grasp on the CDU slip away and in recent years has been hit by political controversies.
One such moment was the refugee crisis in 2015 when one million refugees arrived in Germany, with critics accusing the Chancellor of being too soft on immigration.
However, an unearthed interview reveals that Mrs Merkel herself once pushed ex-Prime Minister David Cameron to soften his stance on immigration.
Before Brexit the two leaders had discussed Mr Cameron’s plans for a so-called “emergency brake” to curb the number of migrants heading to the UK.
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However, the Chancellor was sceptical of his proposal and sprung a surprise visit on Mr Cameron in Brussels, according to Craig Oliver, the PM’s former Director of Communications, who was interviewed for the 2019 BBC documentary, “Inside Europe: 10 Years of Turmoil.”
The ex-aide said the PM’s “naughty schoolboy” charm initially appeared to have won Mrs Merkel over.
He said: “David Cameron had a bad back at the time and one way of dealing with it was just lying down on the floor.
“I was flicking through my phone looking at messages and then suddenly news came through that the German delegation was coming and that they were going to be here in less than a minute.
“We both jumped up and started clearing up and Angela Merkel came in, and I remember her sitting down opposite me.
“She looked like she was finally ready to do business and that she’d really focused on this.”
Mr Oliver explained that the PM had demanded Mrs Merkel agree to an emergency brake for an extended period, otherwise he would face a “barrage of criticism” if he was perceived to have watered down the plans.
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The Chancellor is then said to have turned to an aide and asked the meaning of the word “barrage”.
Mr Oliver continued: “David Cameron immediately jumped in and said ‘blitzkrieg’ and at that moment everybody thought, ‘don’t mention the war, that’s probably not the best thing to do’.
“But they all started laughing and she looked at him as if he was a bit of a naughty schoolboy and she suggested that she was prepared to say yes to this.”
Eventually, Mrs Merkel rejected the idea and Mr Cameron was forced to return to Britain to give a speech on immigration where he had hoped to unveil the emergency brake.
Mr Cameron later claimed it was EU leaders’ failure to grant him this element of his immigration plans that proved a major factor in Britain voting to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Cameron’s former Work and Pensions Secretary later claimed that the PM had offered Germany a “de facto veto” on his plans.
Speaking to the Sun, he said the emergency brake line had been dropped from Mr Cameron’s speech, “literally the night before”.
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