No 10 brushes off 'Muppet' row
Downing Street has insisted that Britain continues to "work closely" with Germany, amid claims that Chancellor Angela Merkel has lost patience with UK intransigence over the EU and wants to create a "new, more deeply integrated Europe" based around the eurozone.
A spokeswoman for Number 10 brushed aside a commentary in the respected German magazine Der Spiegel which compared Britain to Statler and Waldorf, the two old men on The Muppet Show who continually grumble as spectators in the gallery.
The magazine - often taken as reflecting the views of the German establishment - said that Mrs Merkel wants to push ahead without Britain with measures including a separate budget for the 17 eurozone states and a joint EU headquarters for military missions.
Mrs Merkel had long believed that "the door must be kept open for London" to engage more closely with the EU, but those hopes have now been "dashed" by the approach of David Cameron's administration, said Der Spiegel, which did not identify the sources of its claims.
"The German government is convinced that the euro group will be the core of a new, more deeply integrated Europe," said Der Spiegel."The Cameron administration's unwillingness to compromise leaves the German government with no choice.
"Berlin's official position continues to be that all integration steps must be fundamentally available to all EU members. But in reality, the Chancellor has long since come to terms with the fact that there will no longer be a path back to the centre of the union for the British."
The magazine said that Mrs Merkel's proposal for a separate budget for targeted measures to promote growth in the eurozone is expected to be tabled at Thursday's summit of EU leaders at the European Council.
Asked about the Der Spiegel article, the Downing Street spokeswoman said: "I'm aware of reports and I'm sure you are aware that these comparisons are actually made by a German magazine and not actually by the Chancellor herself.
"The point to make is that we continue to work closely with Germany on a range of issues, from pushing for a realistic EU budget to leading the charge for tighter sanctions on Iran. There will be issues we don't always agree on, but that is why we have constant dialogue and that ensures we both understand our priorities and how we can work together in our national interests."
Asked whether it was right to say that Mr Cameron was not a Muppet, as Der Spiegel suggested, she joked: "I think that's probably a factual statement".