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 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Comment number 272.

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

  • rate this

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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
    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

    Comment number 266.

    252. Steve
    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

    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

    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

    Comment number 263.

    Cameron and the Tories lead whilst others follow?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    "I agree with Nigel". UK out now.

  • rate this

    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.


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