We should all get used to reading stories about how Angela Merkel has warned David Cameron that if he persists with X, Y or Z she’ll no longer be able to support Britain staying in the EU. It is the nature of a negotiation that those involved in it will, at points, suggest that they will walk away if the other party continues to demand something. The skill is, obviously, to know whether the other person is bluffing or not.
Now as Mats Persson points out, Merkel’s comments are not as definitive as they are being portrayed as in some places. But there is no getting round the fact that Merkel is determined to protect the principle of free movement while Cameron—ideally—would like to impose limits on it.
I suspect that there remains a deal to be done where it becomes, de facto, the free movement of workers, not people. But before any deal is reached, there’ll plenty of drama and suggestions from both sides that they are about to get up and walk away from the table.