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.
“The ridiculous acceptance of weak countries into the EU has simply dragged the stronger ones down, including us!”
Macer Hall writing in the Daily Express regarding David Cameron looking likely to receive a fresh setback in his drive to cut welfare hand-outs to European Union migrants last night after Brussels officials rejected his plans as “unworkable”.
Sources at the European Commission indicated that the Prime Minister’s plans will be dismissed as incompatible with EU freedom-of-movement rules.
A formal rejection of the proposals is expected to be delivered to Downing Street later this year, the sources said.
The news was a hammer blow to the Prime Minister last night on the eve of crunch talks with Angela Merkel about his agenda for reforming the EU.
Mr Cameron will hold discussions with the German Chancellor at No 10 and is expected to visit the British Museum with her.
He will use the visit to explain to her full details of his plan for reducing migration to the UK by curbing migrants’ access to the benefits system.
Senior Downing Street officials believe that winning over Mrs Merkel is the key to success in any new EU deal for Britain.A spokeswoman for the European Commission yesterday declined to comment on the reports. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman also declined to comment.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said it was “ridiculous” to expect the commission to make an exception for Britain.
He also predicted that Mrs Merkel would be unwilling to give in to Mr Cameron’s demands. Mr Farage said: “Germany is facing its own problems at the moment and would not want Britain to start turning away EU jobseekers, potentially redirecting them to seek work there.”
In November David Cameron promised to crack down on benefits for migrants from the EU. The Prime Minister pledged to stop them receiving handouts for their first four years in the country and to deport those who fail to get a job in their first six months. He said these measures would mean “EU migrants should have a job offer before they come here”.
Unfortunately, Eurocrats are deeply wedded to the idea of ever-closer union and are ideologically opposed to anything that slows that process.
Mr Cameron has promised to renegotiate our relationship with the EU and then hold a referendum in 2017. But at every turn Brussels has done whatever it can to stifle attempts at renegotiation and it would be optimistic to expect that situation to improve.
“The only way to secure real change is for Britain to leave the EU. Perhaps we should be able to decide that sooner rather than later.”