As always in Europe, Angela Merkel’s opinion will be the most important one.
David Cameron knew that as he arrived in Berlin on Friday for talks with the German chancellor, the final and most important destination on his whistle-stop tour of European capitals this week.
The British prime minister is trying to drum up support for the British push for a comprehensive reform of the European Union ahead of an in-or-out referendum on Britain’s E.U. membership by the end of 2017.
In essence, Britain wants Germany and the rest of Europe’s political leaders to agree to loosen the legal ties that bind E.U. members to Brussels, in what would amount to a brake on European integration still sought by many on the Continent.
Mr. Cameron earlier this month won a convincing reelection victory in U.K. elections in part by promising Britons they could decide whether their country remains in the 28-nation E.U., a membership many euro-skeptics in Britain oppose.
For Mr. Cameron, it is essential to get Ms. Merkel, who supports more European integration, not less, on board. She has already made it clear that she wants to keep Britain in the European Union, but just not at any cost.
What is clear is that a Brexit — Britain leaving the E.U. — is now a distinct possibility.
After winning an outright parliamentary majority on May 7, Mr. Cameron is making good on his campaign promise to hold a referendum. Pressure from the euro-skeptic wing of his own Conservative Party and from the United Kingdom Independence Party, a right-wing upstart splinter movement, has made a vote unavoidable.
Mr. Cameron, however, has said that if he secures enough of a recalibration of the U.K.’s relationship with the E.U. then he will recommend Britons vote to stay in the bloc. On Thursday his government published the EU Referendum Bill, with the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”