Today, MEP and occasional Tory Dan, Dan The Oratory May believed he had made a great discovery: a smoking gun which would undermine the Remain camp, the rotten EU, and the Germans all at one go. It may have seemed too good to be true. There was a good reason for this: it was too good to be true. The claim came out of an interview given by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble to Die Welt.
What am I bid for this finely crafted whopper? The bid's with you Sir, yes you in the front row
Hannan knew exactly what Schäuble had said about George Osborne, though: “Extraordinary. Schäuble admits he only threatened to exclude us from the market because George Osborne asked him to”. Notice the sleek and calculated sophistry at work here: Schäuble is said to have “threatened to exclude us from the market”. Single market? Common Market (ie the EU)? Trade agreement?
Whatever the reality, Hannan’s claim brought a swift response from Michael Ashcroft, who mused “If true not good”. Andrew Marr also noted the claim, but like Ashcroft caveated his response: “Extraordinary. If true”. So was it true? Here on Zelo Street, we know never to take Hannan at his word, given the MEP’s penchant for telling whoppers. So a second opinion was sought from someone who both speaks German, and tells the truth.
Wolfgang Schäuble did indeed say that he made certain remarks at the request of Osborne. But what he said is, to no surprise at all, not what Hannan said he said. The summary given by Kristian Niemietz sums up what was said: “I have used this formulation [In is in. Out is out] because the British Finance Minister explicitly asked me to”. Did Schäuble make any threat? The conclusion is that he did not.
A translation of his response to the interviewer reads “George Osborne asked me to come to London to strengthen the ‘Remain’ camp and to show that a proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union would be an irreversible step. Each voter had to know: only those who are members of the club, have a say in the rules of the club”. This was a factual response; no threat was made.
Markus Schuller summed up the problem: “[German Finance Minister] was outspokenly of this opinion before. Just the [English] wording was new (from Osborne). Hence Hannan gave it a wrong spin”. George Osborne may resign. He may be pushed. But whatever he does, it will have nothing to do with Daniel Hannan’s characteristically dishonest interpretation of what Wolfgang Schäuble said to Die Welt.
Hannan owes all concerned an apology. No threats of exclusion were made, only expressions of opinion, which were tailored for the (British) target audience. It was no different a response to that which Schäuble gave Andrew Marr when interviewed during his visit to London. All he said was that out was out, and that the decision was irreversible. It was nothing more than a statement of the obvious.
Daniel Hannan needs access to a fire extinguisher. Because his trousers are alight.