As predicted David Cameron suffered another setback in his drive to curb benefits for migrants last night when Angela Merkel warned there could be no compromise over EU freedom of movement.
During diplomatic talks in Downing Street, the German Chancellor offered only lukewarm support for the Prime Minister’s proposals for reform.
She insisted she wanted to keep Britain in the EU and would work to find a compromise to meet British concerns about welfare tourism. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said.
But she declined to support the idea of any change in EU treaties to give national governments more power to restrict benefits to European citizens.
At a joint press conference in Downing Street, Mrs Merkel insisted she would work with Mr Cameron to tackle “abuse” of benefits in the EU but said the issue had to be settled within European law.
She appeared to suggest that benefit tourism was a matter to be addressed within member nations. Her remarks contrasted with Mr Cameron’s commitment to reform the rules at Union level.
“Together we have said that we don’t want to question the right of freedom of movement,” she said. “We need to say to our local authorities that abuse needs to be fought against so that freedom of movements can prevail.
“We need to look at social security systems of individual member states and to what extent they need to be adjusted.”
Mrs Merkel refused to discuss “speculation” that Britain could quit the EU after the expected referendum in 2017.