Angela Merkel: EU reform not 'piece of cake'

 

The German chancellor tells British MPs there were "very special expectations of my speech here today"

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she can work with the UK to reform the European Union but it will not be "a piece of cake".

Following a Downing Street meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, she said both countries could bring in laws to restrict benefit tourism, as part of "overall European cooperation".

Mr Cameron said changes to the EU were "possible, achievable and doable".

Mrs Merkel addressed Parliament earlier - and later had tea with the Queen.

She also had a meeting with Mr Cameron in Downing Street, with a picture being released of the two of them chatting on the sofa in the Camerons' flat.

Angela Merkel and David Cameron

Mr Cameron is keen to negotiate changes to the UK's treaties with the EU ahead of a promised referendum on whether the country should remain in the organisation, which he wants to hold before the end of 2017.

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She may well agree to concessions to Britain - but not immediately”

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He regards Mrs Merkel as a key figure in achieving his aim and has organised several events to welcome the German leader during her one-day visit to London, including tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

At the Downing Street press conference, Mr Cameron said he and Mrs Merkel "both want to see changes in Europe".

He added that EU rules on freedom of movement needed to change to ensure people could not move from country to country to sign up for welfare payments.

Angela Merkel in the royal gallery Angela Merkel addressed both Houses of Parliament during her one-day visit

Mrs Merkel said the UK and Germany could pass laws to limit this problem, saying: "Where there's a will, there's a way."

She said freedom of movement was intended to allow people to work in different countries, not "having immigration into social systems".

However, speaking of changing the EU, she said: "It is not a piece of cake. It is going to be hard work."

Earlier, Mrs Merkel addressed both Houses of Parliament.

General Charles de Gaulle and his wife Yvonne

Leaders previously accorded the honour include French Presidents Charles de Gaulle, pictured above, Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Francois Mitterrand, US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama, Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin - click here for a full list.

Mrs Merkel told assembled political and business leaders: "Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment.

"Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed."'

Mrs Merkel hailed the peace and stability she said the European Union had brought, saying war between EU member states was now "inconceivable".

David Cameron with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg Mrs Merkel's speech was well received by the UK parliamentarians

She praised the "unparalleled success" of the EU free market - and the freedoms she said European integration had delivered - but stressed that "we need to change the political shape of the EU in keeping with the times".

She told the UK's gathered political leaders the SU had to become stronger, saying: "In order to attain this goal we need a strong United Kingdom with a strong voice inside the European Union.

"If we have that, we will be able to make the necessary changes for the benefit of all."

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Berlin was prepared to offer "limited opt-outs" to the UK over its future compliance with existing EU directives and to make sure some other regulations were more flexibly enforced.

The Queen, right, welcomes Angela Merkel to Buckingham Palace The Queen met Angela Merkel at Buckingham Palace after leaving Downing Street

The newspaper said it was a sign of the lengths that Germany was willing to go to to ensure the UK remained a member of the EU amid fears in Europe that a referendum could lead to British withdrawal.

But BBC Berlin Correspondent Stephen Evans said sources close to Mrs Merkel were playing down expectations of new proposals for the kind of changes British Conservatives wanted to see.

Although not an official state visit - Mrs Merkel is not head of state - the trip has been planned for months, with both governments aware of its political significance at a time of looming change in Europe.

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.

But he faces a battle to convince leaders of other EU member states to agree to the treaty changes he will need, with French President Francois Hollande recently telling the prime minister, on a one-day visit to the UK, that it was "not a priority".

The leader of Mr Cameron's junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and opposition leader Ed Miliband, who both oppose calls for a referendum and who have warned that Conservative calls for a root-and-branch renegotiation will alienate EU leaders, also held separate meetings with Mrs Merkel.

 

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  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 530.

    I am in favour of our country being allowed to make its own rules and regulations something you cannot do in the EU.Why do we have a government good bad or indifferent if we are ruled by the EU?How can you compare any countries monetary value with that or another?i was in Germany from 1963 until 1966 and where I lived a lot of produce came from Holland.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 441.

    The EU is a mixed up jumble of disparate unequal economies and cultures, not to mention languages, that do not even pretend to sing from the same Hymn sheet nor pull together in crises.
    It costs us to belong to the EU and for the privelege we have to be subservient to their laws and views.
    Yet when we need their support they are nowhere to be seen so we have to go it alone.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 387.

    The only reason the germans want us to stay in the EU is that they would have to pick up most of the money we currently send to Brussels as a major net contributor.

    They know Brussels would not trim its budgets with the loss of UK income.

  • rate this
    +88

    Comment number 240.

    @213 I've lived and worked in both countries and it's like comparing apples and pears. Germans save up for pretty much everything including houses, so the economy is a different beast. They have their problems, domestic consumption of product is usually pretty weak, so they are very reliant on exports. Merkel has a growing anti-EU problem at home so this speech is probably for German ears also.

  • rate this
    +58

    Comment number 184.

    I see Angela Merkel is, on the contrary to various comments here, addressing both Houses of Parliament IN ENGLISH!

 

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  74.  
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  75.  
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  77.  
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  79.  
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  80.  
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  81.  
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  82.  
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  83.  
    10:03: Fracking decision

    It could be a landmark day for fracking in the UK, as Lancashire County Council decides whether or not to give the go-ahead for two drilling sites on the Fylde Coast. If it says yes, it will be the most significant development since the government called a halt to shale gas exploration in 2012, because of concerns it may have caused two minor earthquakes near Blackpool.

    BBC Breakfast's Graham Satchell has been following one woman's campaign against the application.

    fracking map
     
  84.  
    09:59: Labour List

    tweets: Labour announce plans to help build more homes http://labli.st/1CxqDzT

     
  85.  
    09:58: TV debates & NI parties The Guardian

    Northern Ireland parties Sinn Fein and the DUP are both separately considering legal action in an attempt to secure a place in the proposed TV election debates - the Guardian is reporting. Politicians have clashed over who should be included in the debates, and broadcasters are now planning to stage one involving the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems, Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

     
  86.  
    09:52: NHS incidents: 17 questions

    Here is the document at the heart of this morning's story about guidelines on "major incidents" that have been issued to NHS hospitals in the West Midlands. It sets out 17 questions for trusts to consider before declaring one.

    Major incident guidelines
     
  87.  
    09:47: NHS incidents

    More on the developing story on new guidelines that have been issued to some NHS trusts on declaring "major incidents". A spokesman for NHS England says the guidelines are not designed to deter hospitals form declaring a major incident. He says: "This is not a note saying don't call a 'major incident'. It is advice to them saying if they are going to declare a major incident here are some things that might help."

     
  88.  
    09:41: Daniel Finkelstein, Times Columnist

    tweets: So @Nigel_Farage, in @DouglasCarswell 's list of conditions for supporting a government, immigration doesn't figure. Is this official?

     
  89.  
    09:36: Sir Jeremy Heywood & jargon

    Daily Mail sketch-writer, Quentin Letts, has accused Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood of "pure Stalinism" in his use of language.

    "Stove-piping" and "horizon-scanning" were among phrases used by Sir Jeremy while giving evidence to the Public Administration Committee on Tuesday. Letts tells the Today programme that opaque language could be an attempt to baffle.

     
  90.  
    @paulwaugh 09:29: Paul Waugh, PoliticsHome

    tweets: Milburn/Hutton/Mand feel like drummer + guitarists trying to get band back together. But minus lead singer Blair. Discuss #UglyRumours #WRM

     
  91.  
    09:26: NHS incidents

    Labour's Andy Burnham has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt querying new guidelines on "major incidents" issued to NHS hospitals by the West Midlands NHS region. He writes: "Procedures for declaring major incidents are long-established in the NHS and it is a highly unusual move for new guidance to be issued in the middle of a difficult winter. This had led some in the NHS to question the motives behind it."

     
  92.  
    09:22: UKIP & the smoking ban
    nigel farage

    UKIP would overturn the smoking ban as one of its election pledges, the party announced yesterday. The Times is carrying the story today saying Nigel Farage's party has promised to "amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms". It has also set out its opposition to plain cigarette packaging.

     
  93.  
    09:11: NHS incidents Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham is writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in relation to the new guidelines on "major incidents" issued by the West Midlands NHS region. Mr Burnham is asking whether similar guidance has been issued in trusts in other parts of the country.

     
  94.  
    09:00: Breaking News Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The BBC has seen new guidelines that have been issued to some NHS hospitals over when they can call "major incidents." The new guidelines issued by the West Midlands NHS region include 17 additional criteria, prompting accusations that hospitals are being pressurised not to declare "major incidents". It is understood the new guidelines were drawn up after a spate of hospitals earlier this month announced they were declaring "major incidents" because of pressure on bed spaces.

     
  95.  
    08:51: Social care debate BBC Radio 4

    On the Today programme, Chris Ham, of the King's Fund, says there is a growing consensus that health and social care should be integrated. They are currently funded separately - but councils, which are responsible for social care - are warning they are struggling to cover their costs. Merging the two is a key plank of Labour's health pledges ahead of the election. With the NHS facing funding pressures of its own, Prof Ham warns against "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

    Social care
     
  96.  
    08:43: Calls for MP to be replaced

    The Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset is facing calls from within his own party to be deselected as a candidate in the general election.

    West Somerset Council's Conservatives group have passed a vote of no confidence in Ian Liddell Grainger.

    In the voting papers obtained by the BBC he was described as "back-stabbing" and using "unethical manoeuvres".

    He is yet to comment but the body in charge of selecting the candidate says it has "every confidence in him".

    Ian Liddell-Grainger MP
     
  97.  
    08:35: Call for stronger parliaments

    More should be done to strengthen parliaments in developing countries. The International Development Committee says a strong parliament "will inevitably ensure greater transparency and better use of state revenues including official development assistance".

    The committee's new report on parliamentary strengthening recommends the Department for International Development puts parliaments at the heart of its governance work.

     
  98.  
    08:30: 'Ethnic kinship' vote fraud warning
    polling station

    The elections watchdog is warning that a lack of campaigning by mainstream political parties in British Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities makes those areas vulnerable to electoral fraud. The Electoral Commission says there is a political "void" in some communities.

    It suggests this void is being filled with "ethnic kinship networks" which could undermine the principle of free choice for voters.

     
  99.  
    @chhcalling 08:25: Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris

    tweets: Went to a restaurant and had some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Alas I couldn't find a German to pay for it.

     
  100.  
    08:20: Ministry of Defence savings
    Ministry of Defence property

    The Ministry of Defence will have to sell off more military land and assets to make savings in the coming years, the defence secretary is indicating. Michael Fallon is expected to say in a speech this morning that his department's finances are in better shape than they once were but savings still need to be made.

    He will say the emphasis should be on supporting frontline troops by selling off more of the MoD's large estate.

     

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