Merkel urges Britain to stay in EU but cool on reform

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron attending a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, on Thursday (Friday in Manila).  AFP PHOTO

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron attending a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, on Thursday (Friday in Manila). AFP PHOTO

LONDON: German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Britain on Thursday (Friday in Manila) to stay in the European Union (EU) but played down David Cameron’s hopes that her visit to London would bring major reforms.

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The British premier rolled out the red carpet in his bid to woo fellow conservative Merkel, who gave a speech to both houses of parliament before taking tea with the queen.

But Europe’s most powerful politician was cool on Cameron’s desire to change the EU’s treaties ahead of a planned referendum on British membership of the bloc in 2017.

Merkel said in her speech to parliament that Britain and Germany shared the goal of a “strong and competitive” EU that was a “model for other regions of the world.”

“In order to maintain this goal we need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice inside the European Union,” she said in English, after delivering most of the address in German.

However, she admitted Cameron might be disappointed by her speech to members of the House of Commons and House of the Lords, the first by a German leader since President Richard von Weizsaecker’s address in 1986.

“I have heard some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment,” she said.

Merkel appeared to open the door to reform a little wider in a press conference after she and Cameron held a lunch meeting at the prime minister’s Downing Street residence.

Cameron said they discussed ways of cutting “excessive interference and meddling” by Brussels and of protecting member states like Britain that do not use the euro.

“Angela and I both want to see change in Europe and we both believe change is possible,” he said.

Merkel offered some support for his concerns over EU migrants claiming social benefits, saying that if new arrivals got as much as long-term citizens there would be an “onslaught.”

She added that while achieving consensus on reforms was “not a piece of cake,” she was confident it could be done.

“If one wants Britain to remain in the European Union which is what I want, if one at the same time wants a competitive union that generates growth, one can find common solutions,” she said.

She then headed off to have tea at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth II.

AFP

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1 Comment

  1. Being British I do know a bit about all of this. To those in the Philippines they may find all of this a bit of a puzzle. The British attitude has always been a bit luke warm about Europe, well to be more accurate the Tory Part in England has. There is now a new party to the right of the Tories called UKIP which is pushing for withdraw.

    Living as I do in the Philippines and looking at the other side of the world I find this attitude very strange. The economies in this region are growing . China is a huge economic force. But members of the Tory party along with UKIP want to leave the EU, and then what? Will all the big motor companies in the UK stay, American and Japanese, probably not and all the rest that will follow.

    Britain does have strengths still but pretending that the British Empire still exists makes little sense to me here.

    Cameroon should work with Merkel. She is definitely the major leader in Europe.

    Oh will there even be a UK soon if Scotland becomes independent?