David Cameron blurted out ‘Blitzkrieg’ to Angela Merkel: ‘Don’t mention the war!’
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The outgoing German Chancellor, 67, is preparing to step down in 2021, having said she will not stand for a fifth term in office in Germany’s September 26 elections. In recent years, Mrs Merkel has seen her grasp on her Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) party slip away and has been hit by political controversies, including the country’s refugee crisis. The Chancellor’s critics have accused her of being too soft on immigration, and an unearthed interview reveals how she once urged Britain’s former Prime Minister David Cameron to lessen his immigration demands.
A high stakes meeting between the leaders was balanced on a knife edge when Mr Cameron uttered the German word “Blitzkrieg”, meaning lightning war, according to Craig Oliver, his former Director of Communications.
The ex-aide told the 2019 BBC documentary, ‘Inside Europe: 10 Years of Turmoil’, that Mr Cameron had been translating for Mrs Merkel when he used the term, which is synonymous with Germany’s military strategy in World War 2.
However, despite fears among those present that Mr Cameron had made a controversial faux pas, the Prime Minister’s linguistic mishap appeared to have won over the German delegation.
Mr Oliver explained that the Prime Minister had been pushing Mrs Merkel to extend his so-called “emergency brake” on immigration so that he could avoid a “barrage of criticism” back home.
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The Chancellor is said to have been confused about the word “barrage” before Mr Cameron told her it meant “Blitzkrieg”.
Mr Oliver said: “At that moment everybody thought, ‘don’t mention the war, that’s probably not the best thing to do’.
“But they all started laughing and she looked at him as if he was a bit of a naughty schoolboy and she suggested that she was prepared to say yes to this.”
Mr Cameron was seeking a prolonged emergency brake that would have curbed EU migrants’ access to benefits in Britain.
He floated the idea as he tried to re-negotiate Britain’s membership of the bloc in a bid to stave off a rising tide of Euroscepticism at home.
Mr Oliver described how Mrs Merkel sprung the visit on him without much warning.
He said: “David Cameron had a bad back at the time and one way of dealing with it was just lying down on the floor.
“I was flicking through my phone looking at messages and then suddenly news came through that the German delegation was coming and that they were going to be here in less than a minute.
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“We both jumped up and started clearing up and Angela Merkel came in, and I remember her sitting down opposite me.
“She looked like she was finally ready to do business and that she’d really focused on this.”
Despite Mr Cameron’s apparent charm, Mrs Merkel ultimately rejected his proposal and the Prime Minister was forced to return to Britain to give a speech on immigration where he had hoped to unveil the emergency brake.
Mr Cameron later claimed it was EU leaders’ failure to grant him this element of his immigration plans that proved a major factor in Britain voting to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Cameron’s former Work and Pensions Secretary later claimed that the Prime Minister had offered Germany a “de facto veto” on his plans.
Speaking to The Sun, he said the emergency brake line had been dropped from Mr Cameron’s speech, “literally the night before”.
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