Brexit: Angela Merkel snubbed UK with ‘Iron Curtain’ remark to refuse EU concessions

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Mrs Merkel, 67, is not seeking a fifth term in office as German Chancellor at the Bundestag election on Sunday. The outgoing Chancellor became the first woman to take Germany’s top post nearly 16 years ago. Mrs Merkel’s tenure has seen her tackle huge issues such as Europe’s refugee crisis and the global financial crash. The Chancellor has also carved out a key role in the EU and in dealing with Britain’s departure from the trading bloc.

The scale of the German leader’s involvement in Brexit was recounted for a 2019 BBC documentary, ‘Inside Europe: 10 Years of Turmoil’.

The film shows how the UK’s then-Prime Minister David Cameron held a series of crunch meetings with Mrs Merkel before Brexit.

One such set of talks saw the Chancellor travel to Downing Street, where according to Mr Cameron’s former aides, she brutally rejected his bid for EU treaty change.

Craig Oliver, Mr Cameron’s former Director of Communications, spoke about the two leaders’ February 2014 meeting.

He said: “Angela Merkel said ‘we have made huge concessions to you, you’re not part of Schengen, you’re not part of the euro’.

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“‘Also try and understand my psyche too’, she said, ‘I come from East Germany, where I was behind an Iron Curtain for a long time’.

“‘When that came down we were told, no longer do we have to be second class citizens, and that there is this great continent where we can all be one together and we shouldn’t lose that.”

The Iron Curtain was the dividing line that separated eastern from western Europe after the end of World War Two until 1991.

Mrs Merkel grew up in former East Germany, behind the Berlin Wall, which was pulled down in 1989.

Her meeting with Mr Cameron came after he promised to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s EU membership if he won a majority at the next general election.

The Chancellor was worried about the prospect of a referendum and raised her concerns with Mr Cameron.

Mr Oliver told the documentary that Cameron told her: “This has built up to a point that it is unavoidable in Britain and I need to tackle it and in tackling it I need your help.”

At the time, the Prime Minister was facing growing anti-EU sentiment from his own Tory MPs and among the British public.

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Mr Cameron therefore promised to renegotiate Britain’s agreement with the EU ahead of the referendum in an attempt to make membership of the bloc more palatable.

However, the reforms he promised required major changes to the bloc’s treaties and were met with firm opposition in Europe.

Mr Cameron’s Conservative Party won a majority at the 2015 general election, giving him the power he needed to hold an EU referendum.

Britain then voted to leave the EU at the public vote in June 2016.

However, ahead of the referendum, the Prime Minister had not secured the concessions he had desired from the EU.

He later pinned the result of the Brexit vote on this failure to win concessions from Brussels.

One such measure was Mr Cameron’s desired “emergency brake” on migration to limit access EU citizens’ access to in-work benefits in Britain.

Germany was reported to have effectively “vetoed” the emergency brake, which Mr Cameron later claimed was a “driving factor” behind Britain voting for Brexit.

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