"I very much hope that Britain remains a member of the EU. But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change."He added:
“I want to be an active part of a reformed EU. Europe and the UK need each other and our economies are very closely intertwined…More than half of British exports go to the EU, we sell more to Nordrhein-Westfalen than to India”.
“There are areas where we want the EU to do more. We want the internal markets for services, for digital services and for energy to be advanced and finally completed…We have plenty of ideas for Europe, but often it is frustrating that these ideas are not implemented. And we would wish that Germany would support us more strongly to push forward these ideas.”Osborne's remarks are intellectually honest and reflect where the vast majority of his party and the British public stand, but it is also the first time that the Government has been so explicit in stating that the UK might face no alternative to exit if the EU proves unwilling to reform and meet the concerns of a country that has refused to embark on the euro project.
It is also a good thing for other EU politicians to understand where the UK, and particularly David Cameron, is coming from. But there is a balancing act here. As we've seen from the widely reported comments by Gunther Krichbaum, Chairman of the German Bundestag’s European Affairs Committee, Germany is very sensitive to the perception that it's being "blackmailed" into granting the UK specific concessions. As we mentioned in our previous blog posts, this is why pitching Cameron's EU speech as good for Europe, not solely the UK, is vitally important.
But the most interesting part of the Osborne / Krichbaum remarks, is the contrast in the media reactions in both countries to the interventions. This speaks volumes for the esteem in which each country views itself relative to the reality. Krichbaum, an important but largely domestic political figure, got a front page hit in the Times:
Osborne, the UK Chancellor, was buried on page 10 in Die Welt (in the economic section), despite issuing what could be seen as an ultimatum.
It shows that the UK at large needs a dose of self-confidence. The British audience should not be surprised if German politicians say they won't be blackmailed. This is both a long-standing German diplomatic stance (they won't be blackmailed by France, Spain, Italy, etc either) and pre-negotiation posturing.
It also shows that it's time for everyone to breathe and calm down.