Cameron set for Merkel EU talks

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Published: Wednesday 7th January 2015 by The News Editor

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David Cameron will seek to bolster support for his bid to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) after May’s general election in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Downing Street.

Mrs Merkel’s trip forms part of a series of visits to foreign capitals in preparation for the G7 summit which she is hosting in Bavaria in June.

But Downing Street confirmed that Mr Cameron’s proposals for EU reform will also be under discussion.

The PM will first accompany his opposite number on a tour of the British Museum’s exhibition on the history of her country.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage raised doubts about the chancellor’s willingness to go along with Mr Cameron’s plans for changes to restrict EU migrants’ access to welfare benefits in the UK.

It comes at a time of heightened tension over immigration in Germany, which has seen protests against “Islamisation” in cities across the country.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman played down reports that the European Commission is raising objections to a key plank of Mr Cameron’s renegotiation proposals, which would require EU jobseekers to have an offer of work before coming to the UK.

The Commission itself has declined to comment on the Guardian report but the PM’s spokesman pointed out that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has previously made clear he is happy to discuss Mr Cameron’s proposals.

Mr Farage said that it was “ridiculous” to expect the Commission to make an exception for Britain on rules guaranteeing freedom of movement for EU workers. He said Mrs Merkel was unlikely to be willing to help the PM get his way.

“Germany is facing its own problems at the moment and would not want Britain to start turning away EU jobseekers, potentially redirecting them to seek work there,” said the Ukip leader.

Labour’s Europe spokesman Pat McFadden said: “Chancellor Merkel is publicly supportive of Britain’s place in Europe but on her visit to London she will no doubt reiterate to David Cameron that Germany is not willing to bail him out politically at any cost.

“Unlike David Cameron, Chancellor Merkel will not be driven by the need to pander to the eurosceptics inside today’s Conservative Party.

“The gap between what David Cameron’s eurosceptic backbenchers are demanding and what European allies such as Germany will accept remains unbridgeable.”

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said that Mr Cameron must put business issues at the heart of his talks with Mrs Merkel.

“Our message to Mrs Merkel and our EU partners is that British firms are pragmatic,” said Mr Longworth.

“They look to eurozone markets for a significant proportion of their export sales, but also believe their interests would be best served if the UK had clear safeguards to avoid becoming intertwined with the eurozone’s ever more integrated decision-making.

“That is why British companies favour remaining in the EU, but with no further integration and a real power shift away from Brussels toward Westminster.”

Mrs Merkel is not meeting with Labour leader Ed Miliband – and his office complained to the Foreign Office (FCO) over its failure to warn him in advance of her visit.

But an FCO spokesman said protocol dictated that advance notice was given only of non state-visits when the foreign leader concerned had formally requested to meet an opposition leader, something that was not the case with Mrs Merkel.

A Labour spokesman said: “Ed Miliband recently raised Labour’s agenda for European reform with Chancellor Merkel in a private meeting when she came to Britain to address Parliament, and has done so on other occasions in meetings with the German foreign minister and other party leaders.

“We will let Chancellor Merkel explain to David Cameron how damaging it is for Britain to be dragged closer to the EU exit door by the Conservatives’ actions.”

Published: Wednesday 7th January 2015 by The News Editor

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