By Ray Fleming

POSSIBLY the most significant thing emerging from yesterday's meeting in Berlin between Britain's David Cameron and Germany's Angela Merkel was the unscheduled lunch they took together. Originally their joint press conference was called for 1245, following a 30 minute meeting, but was then postponed for one hour -- so perhaps the atmosphere between them was friendlier than advance reports and newspaper coverage had suggested. Also significant was the planned brevity of their formal meeting, a 30 minute duration suggesting that they knew in advance they would do little more than restate their divergent positions on key issues.

The press conference confirmed that impression: Cameron said: “Britain remains fully committed to the European Union”; Merkel offered “Germany has her interests and so does Britain. We have to agree to work together and achieve our joint interests.” The tensions beneath those comforting words surfaced only briefly in the strongly differing views over a financial transaction tax and the problems that any treaty changes to create a stronger fiscal union could cause for the British prime minister with his sceptic backbenchers. The one disagreement to come fully into the open was Mr Cameron's repeated call for “decisive action” by the eurozone and Mrs Merkel's preference for a “step-by-step approach to avoid pretending we have more powers than we do have”. Next call: Brussels on 9 December for the EU Summit.

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