Merkel ‘won’t help PM on migrants’

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Published: Tuesday 6th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Ahead of Angela Merkel’s visit to London for talks with David Cameron, Ukip leader Nigel Farage has raised doubts about the German chancellor’s willingness to go along with the Prime Minister’s plans for reform of EU migration rules.

Mrs Merkel’s visit on Wednesday comes at a time of heightened tension over immigration in Germany, which has seen her urge Germans not to join a wave of protests against perceived “Islamisation” in cities across the country.

Mr Farage argued that the rallies will increase pressure on the Chancellor not to agree to changes which could increase the flow of migrant workers to Germany by deterring their entry to the UK.

And Labour said it was clear that the German Chancellor was not ready to “bail out” Mr Cameron in his political battles with Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers.

The main subject for Wednesday’s talks in Number 10 will be preparations for the G7 summit being hosted by Mrs Merkel in Bavaria in June, but Downing Street confirmed that Mr Cameron’s plans to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU following the May general election will also be discussed.

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. And 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.

“If Chancellor Merkel agreed that the UK can close the door on EU jobseekers she would also have to recognise that a great many that were Britain-bound would instead seek work in Germany as the continent’s biggest economy, and that is a risk she is likely to be unwilling to take.”

Mr Farage added: “F ree movement in the EU has always meant equal access to work, free education, free healthcare and UK benefits. To pretend that Cameron can get special exceptions for Britain through treaty change is quite ridiculous. There is no conceivable way that the Commission – nor the leaders of other large member states such as Germany – would accept Britain getting special treatment and it’s been made abundantly clear time and again that the Commission are in no way going to alter the terms of free movement as one of the fundamental principles of the EU’s single market.”

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. Even once her visit is over, the gap between what David Cameron’s Eurosceptic backbenchers are demanding and what European allies such as Germany will accept, remains unbridgeable.

“Europe does need to change, but the tragedy for Britain is that since being elected, David Cameron has spent more time negotiating with his backbenchers than with other EU leaders.”

During the one-day visit, Mr Cameron will accompany Mrs Merkel to the British Museum to view its current exhibition on German history.

The museum’s Germany: Memories Of A Nation show traces 600 years of the history, with exhibits including works of art and a Volkswagen Beetle.

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.”

Published: Tuesday 6th January 2015 by The News Editor

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  • Kevin Marshall

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