LONDON: German chancellor Angela Merkel will make an historic speech to Britain’s parliament on Thursday before holding European Union (EU) talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and taking tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Merkel is expected to speak in German when she addresses lawmakers from the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the first time a chancellor of a reunited Germany has addressed both houses.
She will also meet with Labor Party leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat chief Nick Clegg before rounding off her visit with a trip to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
But the eyes of Europe will be trained on her meeting with fellow Conservative Cameron.
The British prime minister is rolling out what the British press called the “reddest of red carpets” for Merkel in a desperate bid to win support in his fight to reform the EU ahead of a possible referendum on Britain’s membership in 2017.
Despite Merkel’s general sympathy towards Cameron’s views and the pair’s good personal relationship—reported to have been bolstered during a Cameron family visit to her country home last year—experts warn that he is unlikely to extract any meaningful concessions.
“Merkel is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand she would like to help Cameron out of the corner, as Germany wants Britain in rather than out,” explained Almut Moeller of the German Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
“But in effect, her real game is the eurozone and therefore she will not keep Britain in the EU at all costs. And the rest of Europe will listen carefully to what she says in the British parliament.”
According to Thursday’s London Times, Merkel will back freedom of movement for workers within the single market, but will echo Cameron’s concerns over so-called benefit tourism.
Cameron hopes to win over voters in the country’s in-out referendum by securing reforms that would dilute Europe’s influence over domestic policy, but is finding support hard to come by.
The 90-minute lunch talks are also expected to address EU-US trade talks and the identity of the next European Commission chief following Jose Manuel Barroso’s departure in 2015.
Merkel’s speech to members of both chambers of parliament is the first by any German leader since president Richard von Weizsaecker did so in 1986.
United States President Barack Obama and French former President Nicolas Sarkozy are among the other foreign leaders to have spoken to the Houses of Commons and Lords.