Can’t meet all of UK’s wishes, says Merkel

February 28, 2014 - 6:07:49 am
LONDON: German Chancellor Angela Merkel told British Prime Minister David Cameron she was not prepared to promise fundamental reform of the European Union for London’s sake, but said the bloc did need some changes and that his country should not leave it.

In a speech to both houses of Britain’s parliament — only the third time a German leader had spoken there since World War Two — Merkel, the leader of the EU’s most powerful state, ruled out the prospect of a far-reaching overhaul of the bloc’s treaties, signalling she was open to modest reforms only.

“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,” Merkel said in English.

“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,” she added.

In London for a one-day visit, she was speaking at a time when uncertainty about Britain’s future in the EU is rising because of a promise by Cameron to offer Britons an in/out membership referendum, if he wins a national election next year.

Under pressure from eurosceptics in his Conservative party and from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of European elections in May and next year’s national vote, Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain’s EU ties before any membership referendum.

He has not spelt out all the reforms he wants, but has made it clear he wants to curb freedom of movement for poorer new EU member states and clamp down on pan-EU “welfare shopping”.