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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote

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”

End Quote No 10

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
    +26

    Comment number 279.

    I voted to join the "Common Market" in the seventies and successive Governments have allowed the institution to grow into something else - not just a trading block. However - leaving the EU is not an option for so many reasons but we must reform it without doubt. I hope other members agree with Cameron and allow it to be changed, I cannot see any practicable alternative.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 278.

    Come on BBC, don't remove my earlier comment, it was just a bit of Friday fun. Lighten up!!

    Why do these debates always need to be so political...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 277.

    Even if there is significant renegotiation, which I doubt, we owe it to those countries in Southern Europe who are shackled by the Euro, the EU and it's institutions to show that we can, with enough support, detach ourselves from what is becoming the United States of Socialist Europe. If we leave, Southern Europe will follow, Germany knows this, this is why what UKIP is doing is of such import.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 276.

    We'd be a lot better off if we adopted the French position on the EU......anything we disagree with just ignore it and carry on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 275.

    @ 254.Asif Smith.

    And it almost sounds like you are gifted with prescient powers What are you doing exactly that gives you a right to criticise or make assumptions about the actions of other people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 274.

    If think Clegg has the right idea - let's join the Euro, not let's not, no let's join, no let's not.
    What could possibly go wrong - what we need is some some of agreement, no we don't, yes we do, no we don't.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 273.

    Sounds to me as if Merkel and the rest of the EU are getting the wind up in case Britain votes to leave. They don't realise that the British people (not Clegg, nor Cameron), the British people, wants less interference in our laws, our immigration policy, our welfare policy, and our international policy. In other words to keep their noses out of our business. They need us more than we need them

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 272.

    Am I still stuck in a moderation queue because my previous comment criticised Germany?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 271.

    Europe is now divided into two blocks. the biggest block headed by Germany is the Eurozone & thanks to wonders of Qualified Majority voting those in the Eurozone now drive the EU bus & Britain & the others are only marginalized passengers. We have already seen the Eurozone club together to force Britain to pay for the Euroflop via the Tobin tax. We have seen our future in the EU, Time to leave.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 270.

    215. Terry
    I believe that all this uncertainty is damaging for the UK and for the EU. We held a referendum to enter Europe . . .

    Yes, we did - and then it was called the Common Market. But what exists now is nothing like the original concept - as you are well aware. Hence, time for a re-appraisal of our membership, i.e. a referendum.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 269.

    This shows just how desperate they are to keep us in, as the EU would collapse without the UK being involved!
    As for saying we would have to abide by EU regs is concerned, 134. BevanC, that is nonsense! Flooding the Somerset Levels was an EU plan, should we do that? If you look at France and Germany, or most countries in the EU they ignore rules they don't like! They still have to buy from us!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 268.

    I am not sure why so many people here have the facts! Churchill proposed the idea of a union. To stop further wars, and to make not one country great, but Europe to counter the economic strength of America.
    We live in a Global market now, and we cannot fight this on our own.
    WE are not as economically sound as Norway or Switzerland. London will transfer to Germany if we withdraw from the EU.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 267.

    248. Owlsoflaughter
    That's a really good point. The 'Pew report' on the sick man of Europe shows a strong trend amongst many EU countries where support for the EU is dropping rapidly
    http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/05/13/the-new-sick-man-of-europe-the-european-union/
    If the UK get their referendum and leave, expect more referenda in other member countries and the EU as it is will come to an end.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 266.

    252. Steve
    JUST NOW
    I still think Clegg will end up working for a European windmill factory

    ...........

    Steve I do believe you have just found the perfect image for a politician

    Someone ''blown by the wind whilst waving his arms around in the air a lot''

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 265.

    Britain and Germany are two states in the EU. Agreement will be needed by all the EU states. Many resent the fact that he is only thinking about his party's interests and it desperately trying to keep both the waring factions happy. This is a hopeless task and a reason why they haven't been in majority government since 1992.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 264.

    Great. This will be a century of economic expansion due to new technology. There is a way to secure our democracy and identity while fully co-operating with our friends and partners for prosperity.

    No need to listen to the politics of fear.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 263.

    Cameron and the Tories lead whilst others follow?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 262.

    "I agree with Nigel". UK out now.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 261.

    #96 comments are flawed. The idea of comparing the UK with Norway and Switzerland is farcical. Together they both have a population of less than London and surrounding area.. Norway survives on it's oil revenues and Switzerland is where the rich hide their money, mostly illegally. Both pay very high admission fees to be part of the internal market and have no say on the rules.

  • Comment number 260.

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

 

Page 26 of 39

 

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  68.  
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  69.  
    11:23: New cash for energy saving scheme announced

    Energy Secretary Ed Davey has announced the launch of a new £70m tranche of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund from Monday 16 March. He's been speaking to Money Saving Expert, and said up to £5,600 will be available to households in England and Wales to help with the costs of installing energy saving improvements. The money off vouchers will be available on a first-come first-served basis. The fund offers cashback and incentives on such things as double-glazing, insulation and boilers.

     
  70.  
    11:29: Farage speech on immigration

    "The big debate in the 1970s was whether we could accommodate 28,000 migrants from Uganda... but we did and they turned out to be one of the most successful migrant groups in our history," Mr Farage says.

     
  71.  
    11:28: Farage speech on immigration

    "We don't want mass immigration to continue as it is... we need better controls over our borders," Mr Farage says. He claims UKIP has a common sense policy on immigration. He adds UKIP is the only party that will talk honestly about immigration, which he says is the number one issue for most voters. He claims the current policy discriminates against skilled migrants from India and other parts of the Commonwealth in favour of unskilled migrants from southern and eastern Europe.

     
  72.  
    11:28: Pic: Farage speech
    Nigel Farage
     
  73.  
    11:23: Farage speech

    Mr Farage claims net migration levels used to sit at around 30,000 a year - he said earlier that he was referring to figures from the 1950s to the late 1990s. He continues by saying there is nothing wrong with wanting to control immigration, saying "we want to do what the Australians do". He claims an influx of unskilled migrants has also meant that for many the "minimum wage has become the maximum wage".

     
  74.  
    11:23: Farage speech on immigration

    "It is perhaps no wonder that 77% of the British public want us to take back control of our borders," says Mr Farage as he makes his opening salvo in his immigration speech. He then starts to link the pressure on services including the NHS and pressure on communities to immigration too.

     
  75.  
    11:23: Today in the Commons House of Commons Parliament

    The day in the House of Commons begins in a few minutes' time, as MPs put questions to the Secretary of State for Wales, Stephen Crabb. Shortly after 12.00 GMT, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband face each other for Prime Minister's Questions.

     
  76.  
    11:21: Red-Green alliance?

    Tory MP Dominic Raab has laid into the Green party on the Conservativehome blog. He calls the party's policies dangerous and irresponsible. He also warns the Greens "may threaten Labour most. But, that wouldn't stop them forming a Red-Green alliance that draws from the most economically and socially irresponsible agenda presented by any UK party for a generation".

     
  77.  
    11:11: Guardian election poll

    The Guardian's latest election poll projects the Conservatives will win 277 seats at the general election, Labour 271, the SNP 51, the Lib Dems 25, UKIP 4, the Greens 1.

     
  78.  
    11:10: "Plebgate"

    In November former chief whip Andrew Mitchell lost his High Court libel action against News Group Newspapers over a story in the Sun in 2012 which claimed he called PC Toby Rowland a "pleb" during a row about whether he could cycle out of the main gates in Downing Street. Mr Mitchell acknowledged that he had used bad language but maintained he had not used that word. Delivering his ruling, Mr Justice Mitting said he was satisfied that the MP did say the word "pleb". PC Toby Rowland counter-sued Mr Mitchell over the claims, hence today's settlement.

     
  79.  
    11:07: "Plebgate" payout
    Andrew MItchell

    If you're a little behind the times on the "Plebgate" row or it it passed you by somehow then the BBC has a handy timeline, which should take you through it all.

     
  80.  
    10:51: Plebgate pay out

    It's been a long and tangled tale, the plebgate saga. Here's our news story on the latest development - the £80,000 pay out by Andrew Mitchell to Pc Toby Rowland. We'll be building it up as more details come in.

     
  81.  
    10:45: 'Job isn't done' BBC News Channel

    Business Minister Matthew Hancock begins his interview rather like his boss did earlier by avoiding the question raised by the IFS report about the divergence in fortunes between young and old. "It's a big moment. This is very big news," he says, hailing the positives. But he goes on to say: "The job isn't done. We're moving in the right direction." He adds that the government doesn't "care about the data" but about individual people.

     
  82.  
    @matthewchampion Matthew champion, news editor at i100

    tweets: attention residents of Thurrock: do not buy any walls today.

     
  83.  
    @David_Cameron David Cameron
    David Cameron buidling a wall

    tweets: Seeing homes being built by @barrattplc in Thurrock. 95% will be sold to first time buyers with Help to Buy mortgages

     
  84.  
    @BiteTheBallot Bite the Ballot, movement to encourage young voters

    tweets: A third of people who registered to vote on #NVRD were aged 16-24: are you registered?

     
  85.  
    10:34: HSBC tax scandal

    Yup it's true, we've checked. John Humphreys did in fact ask George Osborne the same question six times as Ed Balls has claimed. In case you missed it, it was did he [the chancellor] speak to Lord Green about the allegations that HSBC clients had evaded tax before the government appointed him as a trade minister?

     
  86.  
    Breaking News

    From the Press Association: Pc Toby Rowland, the police officer at the centre of the notorious Downing Street "Plebgate" incident, has accepted £80,000 damages in settlement of his libel action against former government chief whip Andrew Mitchell, a High Court judge was told today.

     
  87.  
    @DPJHodges Dan Hodges, commentator for the Telegraph and Total Politics

    tweets: Joking aside, if you read @Nigel_Farage Telegraph article, most significant thing is change of tone. Migrant bashing gone. And that's good.

     
  88.  
    @JGForsyth James Forsyth, from the Spectator

    tweets: Most encouraging thing for the Tories about latest YouGov is that their vote share is up to 36%, might not be stuck in the low 30s anymore

     
  89.  
    10:12: HSBC tax scandal

    Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls has responded to Chancellor George Osborne's interview on the Today programme earlier. He accuses the chancellor of refusing to answer the same question six times. We may go back and listen to see if this is true.

    Mr Balls says: "George Osborne was asked six times whether he discussed allegations of tax evasion at HSBC with Lord Green, the bank's former chairman, and six times he refused to answer.

    "What has George Osborne got to hide? People will draw their own conclusions from his total failure to answer.

    "The chancellor also struggled to explain why, since the government received these files in May 2010, only one person has been prosecuted out of 1,100 names.

    "David Cameron and George Osborne must now come clean about their discussions with Lord Green - both while he was a Tory minister and before they appointed him."

     
  90.  
    10:08: Age discrepancy BBC News Channel

    "The slowness of this recovery seems to me to be quite unprecedented," says Jonathan Portes, from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. He's being asked about the IFS's report out today. Mr Portes also points out something we spotted too, that George Osborne avoided answering when it was put to him on the BBC News Channel earlier that people over 60 are getting richer while younger people aren't.

     
  91.  
    09:52: Immigration cap

    Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, told the Today programme a week ago that existing limits on skilled migrants were "draconian". He said the fact the government couldn't block EU migrants meant all the burden fell on those people coming from outside the EU, "and that's really damaging". "They should be able to come here freely if they are qualified and able and many of them have been students here and often have to leave rather than work in the country they have come to call home," he added.

     
  92.  
    @asabenn Asa Bennett, @HuffPostUK business reporter

    tweets: Ukip's migration cap joins the flat tax and their 2010 manifesto in the "dumped by @Nigel_Farage" list

     
  93.  
    09:42: Coming up later Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Transport minister Claire Perry and shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn join Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn throughout the programme. They'll look ahead to the election with Tim Farron from the Liberal Democrats, and UKIP MP Mark Reckless will be on to discuss his party's immigration plans. Journalist and editor of Briebart UK James Delingpole will say why he thinks obese people are putting too much of a strain on the NHS, and there will be live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions. Desktop users can watch the programme live, or later, via the Live Coverage tab above.

     
  94.  
    09:40: Existing immigration cap

    It's also probably worth pointing out that last week, the Institute of Directors (IoD) said the current cap on skilled migrants entering the UK from outside the European Union - yes there already is one - of 20,700 annually was "damaging and restrictive" to the UK economy. It called on the government to raise the limit.

    In theory, as they argue, UKIP would be able to bring net migration down very swiftly if the UK were to leave the EU as they desire. Last week, official figures showed 57% of those coming to the UK were from Europe.

     
  95.  
    @paulwaugh Paul Waugh, editor of PoliticsHome.com

    tweets: Farage: "Our intention is to bring net migration to between 20k + 50k". From cap to target to ambition. And now an 'intention'

     
  96.  
    09:32: Salary target

    On the subject of migrants' salaries, you might be interested to know that Nigel Farage pays his wife, who was born in Germany, £27,000 a year to be his secretary. Here's the Daily Mail's story from last year about that.

     
  97.  
    09:28: 'Unskilled mass migration' BBC News Channel

    Pressed further by the BBC's assistant political editor Norman Smith over his immigration policy, Nigel Farage says: "We need a degree of flexibility over what we need, and what we don't need is the continued mass migration into the UK of unskilled workers. Our intention is to bring net migration to between 20,000 and 50,000." He says the media are "obsessed by targets, let's talk about policy".

     
  98.  
    09:27: Policy muddle? BBC News Channel

    Mr Farage is asked if he is just making policy up as he goes along? He says not. He repeats his claim that 27,000 people would have come into the UK under the points system UKIP is proposing. "Some years it will be more, but at the moment net migration is running at 10 times what it was for most of last 50 years of the 20th century," he says.

     
  99.  
    09:25: Minimum salary BBC News Channel

    Asked if people coming to the UK would need to meet a minimum income target of £27,000 - something they had been expected to announce - Mr Farage says: "There will be no statement that it will be £27,000. It is likely to be £27,000. What we want is people who come to the UK with a skill, who don't have a criminal record or life threatening illness," he adds.

     
  100.  
    09:22: UKIP migration U-turn BBC News Channel

    Au contraire, says UKIP leader Nigel Farage, "it isn't a U-turn". "I don't think we get anywhere near 50,000," he says. Under an Australian points-based system only 27,000 people would have been admitted to the UK last year, he insists.

     

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