Mrs Merkel has increased her vote and remains Chancellor. Her coalition will be different. If she has to do a deal with the SPD she will be under some pressure to be more generous towards the southern Euro states, and to be less accommodating of the UK’s wish for less EU.
The AFD attracted some support which tries to create the opposite pressure, but failed to win a single seat. This was a bad result. After all, all the other parties in the German election are pro the Euro and pro more EU integration, so AFD had a clear run at Euroscepticism and was working in a PR system. Merkel’s current coalition partners the FDP struggled and lost all their seats.
Some of the UK establishment think Mrs Merkel will make some concessions to the UK’s wish to return powers to the member states from the EU. After all, Germany sells so many goods to the UK she needs to be friendly to such a big market. She also values the UK’s support on trying to limit EU spending and our offer of some moral and political support for cutting deficits by spending control. She is a natural consensus seeker. If the UK – with the Netherlands and a few others – argues strongly for powers back, by definition the mid point or consensus will have shifted and Mrs Merkel will wish to reflect that.
However, we are talking about two different negotiations here. The UK can hold a negotiation with the re-elected Mrs Merkel under the coalition. This will be with the approval of the Lib Dems, will be an agreed government policy, and will be seeking some powers back for all member states by consensus. I wish it well, and it may get something back we want.
It is not, however, the negotiation the Conservatives will pledge in the next manifesto to negotiate a new relationship for the UK with the rest of the EU. That will be a negotiation just by us to create a new relationship. It is not something the Lib Dems or Labour support. This is necessitated by the move of most of the rest of the EU to unity under the Euro, with the non Euro members largely agreeing to follow suit. The UK’s refusal to join the Euro, now common policy of Conservatives and Labour, puts us in need of a new and looser relationship with the emerging political union on the continent. A few agreed powers back is not the answer to this problem.
That is why the referendum promise (and attempt to legislate for it) is so important. The voters then have a guarantee that if the government is unable to negotiate a new sensible relationship with the emerging wider Euro union, they can vote us out of the EU altogether. It will give Mr Cameron leverage when negotiating with the rest of the EU, and it will ensure he cannot come back and recommend a deal which fails to tackle the underlying main issues. He will not want to return with a package which will be defeated. If he cannot get a sensible deal then he will have to recommend refusal. He naturally remains optimistic he can get a deal which makes sense for the UK. Any negotiator is often wise to remain upbeat about the chances of success. Mrs Merkel will be important in just that matter.