Germany backs UK over calls for 'fairness' in EU reforms

Angela Merkel and David Cameron Mrs Merkel has said reforming the European Union will not be a "piece of cake"

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David Cameron's hopes of renegotiating the UK's place in the European Union have been boosted after Germany said any future changes must be fair to nations not using the single currency.

Its finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said countries outside the eurozone should not be put at a "systematic disadvantage" by future integration.

Writing in the Financial Times, he said legal protections must be put in place.

No 10 said it amounted to the German government publicly backing its case.

Mr Cameron has said that if the Conservatives win the 2015 election, he will seek to renegotiate the terms of the UK's membership of the European Union and put the outcome to an in-out referendum of the British people in 2017.

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Britain has lavished huge diplomatic attention on Germany and it's clearly paying off”

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The prime minister says moves towards deeper economic and political integration within the eurozone are a trigger for the UK to secure a "better deal" in Europe and redraft the terms of its membership.

He has suggested that existing EU treaties will need to be rewritten - although France has signalled that it does not believe this is a priority at the moment.

The UK has long maintained that safeguarding national interests, such as fair access to the European single market and protecting the City of London, will be vital in any future process.

In the joint FT article, Chancellor George Osborne and his German counterpart said any changes to EU treaties must "guarantee fairness" to all member states.

Wolfgang Schauble German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble wrote the article with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

"As the euro area continues to integrate, it is important that countries outside the euro area are not at a systematic disadvantage in the EU," the two said.

The pair added: "So future EU reform and treaty change must include reform of the governance framework to put euro area integration on a sound legal basis, and guarantee fairness for those EU countries inside the single market but outside the single currency."

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What we see is Germany accepting that there needs to be these proper safeguards put in place as further changes are made for the eurozone”

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It is the first time Germany has publicly indicated that countries such as the UK must not be put at a disadvantage by eurozone nations' moves to integrate more closely.

Downing Street said Mr Schauble's comments amounted to the German government stating publicly for the first time that safeguards for non-eurozone states should not simply be negotiated on a case-by-case basis as the single currency area takes further steps towards integration, but should be underpinned formally in the EU treaties.

A No 10 spokesman said it was vital that there was a "level-playing field" between countries inside and outside the euro.

"What we see is Germany, one of the leading players in the eurozone, accepting that there needs to be these proper safeguards put in place as further changes are made for the eurozone."

"This is a German finance minister coming out and saying there will be treaty change and it must include reform of the framework to ensure the right safeguards between euro-ins and euro-outs."

The BBC's Ben Wright said the prime minister and Conservative backbenchers would be delighted that the Germans were "clearly receptive" to their concerns.

The Euro logo in front of the European Central bank The joint article calls for the European Union to "guarantee fairness"

The timing of the comments would also be welcome in No 10, he added, coming as the debates between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have put the issue of what can be achieved in Europe top of the political agenda.

But this would not be enough on its own, he added, to satisfy Conservative MPs who have been promised a return of powers from Brussels to London.

Mr Cameron has been seeking to get Germany's backing for its reform agenda in Europe but on a visit to the UK earlier this month, Chancellor Angela Merkel bwarned it would not be "a piece of cake".

Reacting to Friday's development, Conservative MP Mark Reckless said the dialogue between Berlin and London was "excellent" but the UK had to decide what kind of relationship it wanted with the eurozone.

"Although the Germans are not going to remake the EU to suit the UK, and the prospect of treaty change does seem to be receding, Germany sells more to the UK than any other country in the world and it is clear they will be keen to maintain free trade and friendly relations were we to vote for a future outside the EU," he told Radio 4's World at One.

But Conservative MP Douglas Carswell struck a cautious tone about what was being promised.

"Hurray! British and German governments promising us EU reform and "subsidiarity" in the FT. Just like the 1990s all over again," he tweeted.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    773.The J Hoovers

    So, the EP can't propose nor repeal laws. It can only amend!

    Come to think of it, the European Parliament is the 1st Parliament in history that can neither propose nor repeal laws. No wonder people say it has a democratic deficit as bad as or worse than the USSR's Congress of Soviets.

    *Laws also include directives issued by unelected Commissioners too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    772. MH. I would agree UK was in a mess in 1970's but our own industrial reforms made the difference, not membership of EU. We were the sick man of Europe now that honour has gone to France even though they have benefitted enormously from CAP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    563 "The best way to take control over a people, and control them utterly, is to take a little of their freedom at a time.." - Hitler.

    Or in other words, "you can get people to swallow anything if you feed it to them in small enough pieces" - Old saying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    767. Asif Smith

    Whats more is that there are huge cultural differences in this country or are you saying I'm the same as an Indian, a Jew, a Chinese or Arab.
    As much as I try to embrace their cultural differences I am not like them in most ways. I am English first, was raised the British way which is like no other nation.
    I feel closer to America culturally than I ever will Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    If Merkel or the previous German leaders what to apply to all the EU the same strategy and policy use in Germany now and before i welcome this with open arm the reason please take a look to Germany economy and social care for the people both are second to none it show how a capitalist system should work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    771. berserkerphil
    Are you trying to tell me that I have cultural similarities to a German or Greek. The only thing I have in common with those nations is the Air we breathe!

    Football, food, a drink or two.. The mother of all cultures, i.e. language: there are so many words in the English language that originate from German, Greek, Latin, Scandinavian languages...

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    764. Trent
    "No, it CAN"T [EP repeal laws]"


    I'm not sure what you want me to say. If the Commission proposes a repeal, then the ONLY way that can happen is if BOTH the Parliament and Council of Ministers pass it. The Commission cannot repeal laws. It is ENTIRELY in the hands, jointly and individually, of the EP and CoM.

    Why would you want a party political repeal without like proposal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    703 dtbiffen

    "You obviously weren't alive before we joined the EU"

    Correct, and neither were you or any one else alive today

    Seeing we joined in 1973 - 41 years ago - there are millions of us alive remembering the day as if it was yesterday

    Seeing what conditions were like then it was the best day for this country and all our lives have improved immeasurably

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    767. Asif Smith
    Not that different. Different countries may have different idiosyncrasies but the difference between the average European, whether they are Dutch or English for example, is not much bigger than between a cockney and a scouser.

    Are you trying to tell me that I have cultural similarities to a German or Greek. The only thing I have in common with those nations is the Air we breathe!

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    768.The J Hoovers Witnesses
    This is fun; You dismiss the rising of extremist political forces like Golden Dawn, and their ilk, when previously such groups were irrelevant fringe nutters. Then you get the powers of your beloved EU Parliament wrong...

    Keep it going, I need a cheap laugh;

    Expand on your claim that Greek youth can better afford houses, despite youth unemployment raging at 60%.

  • Comment number 769.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    760. Trent
    "ultra-nationalist parties"


    Oh them. Yes, every country has its equivalent of the Union Jack tattoo headed knuckle draggers, and when the TV cameras are about during a demo they'll try and get seen. The media seem to love them too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    758. berserkerphil
    An EU Superstate ...will never work because we are all so different.

    Not that different. Different countries may have different idiosyncrasies but the difference between the average European, whether they are Dutch or English for example, is not much bigger than between a cockney and a scouser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    @759 - 'People like me'? You don't sound too tolerant considering.

    I never mentioned 'pink bits' or the monarchy, you seem to have a lot of baggage, neither of these are relevant to the EU.

    I still don't see an argument against an ind. UK, those pink bits - we built that - I'm sure we could stand on our own 2 feet again if we tried.

    As Scottish independence - Lib/Lab/Con's greatest shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    Germany may be making the right noises to No 10 but Germany has always had it's own interests at the heart of anything it does in Europe.

    France is exactly the same.

    This is why an EU superstate will never work. The smaller nations will simply have to bow down to what ever those to say or else........

    'Tis time to have that referendum once and for all.....let the British people decide now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    763.The J
    "Can the EU Parliament even repeal laws?"
    It can repeal laws...
    No, it CAN"T. Do you even peruse the EU website itself?
    Its puny powers (covered in only the short 2nd sentence) do not mention "repeal powers."

    It's design is eerily similar to the Congress of Soviets (flawed).

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    754. Trent
    "Can the EU Parliament even repeal laws, let alone propose them?"


    It can repeal laws: that's a common part of new law.

    As for proposing them, well, the political centre of the EUP is to the left of the UK's so I'd be happy with that, but would net curtain England?

    The EU Commission is consensus politics by DESIGN, as is the Council of (our) Ministers who must pass all laws too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    The question is are you European or British?
    The question is are you Earthling or British? Because if you say Earthling, you better run headlong into global government (a socialist Orwellian wet dream).

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    lets us vote for in or out.

    just do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    757.The J
    Oh, you must have one of those EU supplied TV sets, where you don't see the rise of ultra-nationalist parties in those countries you cite.

    "Greece's property fell by 60%, the young can afford a place of their own again"
    With youth Greek unemployment at 60%, none have a job to afford anything, let alone a home.


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