German chancellor due to meet prime minister at Chequers for talks as main campaign for UK to leave European Union launches
Angela Merkel is keen for Britain to stay in the EU. Photograph: Marius Becker/EPA
Angela Merkel is expected to push David Cameron to spell out his negotiating position on the European Union when the leaders meet on Friday, as the main campaign calling on the UK to leave Brussels launched.
The German chancellor will hold wide-ranging talks with Cameron at the prime minister’s Chequers residence in the afternoon with signs that both the Germans and French are growing frustrated at the lack of precise details emerging from the British side.
They want the UK to be more specific over its demands for Cameron recommending Britain stay in the EU in the forthcoming referendum due to be held in 2016 or 2017.
Technical talks have been under way in Brussels, but the exact nature of the British plans have been held back by Cameron partly to get him past the Conservative conference this week.
Cameron’s negotiations have grown more complex due to the growing likelihood that either Theresa May or Boris Johnson, two possible contenders for the party leadership after Cameron, will decide to recommend a vote to leave. Both politicians left themselves with scope to make a dramatic move, but much will depend on the timing of the referendum, the trend in public opinion and the terms of Cameron’s renegotiation.
Merkel is keen for Britain to stay but it will be hard to dovetail the UK demands for a looser union with eurozone countries’ call for closer union to shore up the euro.
Coinciding with her visit, the well-funded Leave campaign launched on Friday morning, publishing an opinion poll showing 44% wanting to remain against 39% wanting to leave. The rival campaign to stay in the EU will launch on Monday.
Michael Gahrer, a member of Merkel’s CDU party, said it was in the interests of Germany and Europe as a whole that Britain stay in. “We are in a situation globally where we need Britain but we cannot construct an ever looser and ever looser union I think that would not be the right answer,” he said.
He added: “if there was too much repatriation of powers from Brussels, the single market would start to be dismantled.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Gahrer said the idea of Britain operating alone on the world stage was implausible. “That time has gone, The empire has gone. There is no such time any more.”
He stressed UK concerns were already being met through fewer directives from Brussels, and warned if the UK left the country would be in the same position as Norway, inside the single market but with no control over its rules.
“If you leave that would reopen the Scotland debate, I warn you of that,” said Gahrer.
Jon Moynihan, a leading figure in the Leave campaign and board member of Business for Britain, said: “We have come reluctantly to the conclusion that it will not be possible to negotiate a common market as opposed to a political union.
“It looks as if we are going to leave the EU all the opinion polls and underlying analysis suggest we are going to leave.”
Moynihan added that it would be easier for the UK to come up with a sensible immigration policy outside of Europe. But, in line with the Leave campaign’s chief argument, he stressed the case for leaving rested more on the ability of the UK economy to be able to grow and export more outside the EU.
The only concern the scaremongers had raised, he said, was that British exports to the EU would be threatened, but that could only occur if there was a tariff war. He argued such a war would not happen since 23 of the 27 other EU member states had a trade surplus.
Lucy Thomas, the deputy director of the In Campaign, said: “Britain’s investment in EU membership reaps a huge reward of 10 to one. For just £340 per household every year, the benefits in return add up to £3,000 for each household annually. This is yet another ‘out’ campaign who aren’t aiming to speak to voters, but instead are squabbling with each other in order to become the main voice in the race.
“As ever, they don’t propose any plan for what ‘out’ would actually look like, instead they are boasting about which rich donors are backing them.
“They cannot guarantee that British jobs would be safe outside Europe, or that prices wouldn’t rise. They have no idea whether we would retain our access to the world’s largest market, or how long it would take us to renegotiate free trade deals with over 50 countries around the globe.”