Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

Merkel: UK exit better than restricting free movement

  • Quotas on EU migrants would be a "point of no return" for Germany

German chancellor Angela Merkel would reportedly prefer the UK to leave the EU than have Downing Street limit the free movement of people.

Unnamed sources in the German government told the German weekly Der Spiegel that UK plans to place a cap on unskilled EU migrants would be a step too far for the German Chancellor.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"Should Cameron persist [in this plan], chancellor Angela Merkel would abandon her efforts to keep Britain in the EU. With that a point of no return would be reached,” the source said.

Merkel’s opposition to changing EU rules on free movement may have influenced another decision by the UK over the weekend to drop quotas on EU migrants and instead plan to impose a ban on those who do not have a job or cannot support themselves after three months.

The Sunday Times says prime minister David Cameron, in an upcoming speech, intends to lay out his anti-immigrant ideas that would instead stretch EU rules “to their limits” in order to appease Merkel.

Merkel’s “point of no return” admission is significant because it is the first time she has floated the idea of a possible UK exit from the EU.

The German chancellor is not opposed to placing restrictions on EU nationals who abuse another member state’s social system but is firmly opposed to the fundamental right of free movement of people being curtailed.

“Germany does not want to touch the basic principle of free movement of persons within the EU,” said one German official.

The welfare abuse restrictions already generated controversy last year when the then EU commission for justice Viviane Reding warned against “unfounded wrong perceptions” about welfare tourism. Under EU rules, member states can ask an EU national to leave if they become a "burden".

UK politicians, including home secretary Theresa May and Ukip leader Nigel Farage, spoke out against potential mass migration in the run-up to lifting all restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers in January 2014.

Tens of thousands of new migrants from the two countries were predicted to arrive in the UK after the 1 January 2014 date.

But UK government statistics showed that the number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK from January to March 2014 had instead dropped by 4,000.

"The very modest number of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work in Britain this year is in stark contrast to the inflammatory rhetoric of earlier this year,” the UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury told the BBC in May.

And in June, a leaked Home Office report found that EU migrants have had a largely positive effect in the UK. It also noted that some 2.2 million British citizens live in Europe outside the UK.

The migration rhetoric in UK politics is seen as an attempt by Cameron to stop voters opting for Ukip ahead of the national elections next year.

Opinion

Managing migration: a European responsibility

"The EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants", writes migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

News in Brief

  1. Air Berlin insolvency talks begin amid 'stitch-up' accusation
  2. EU calls on Serbia and Macedonia to remain calm
  3. Schulz wants US to remove nuclear weapons from Germany
  4. Ukraine and Russia to announce another ceasefire
  5. EU to investigate Monsanto-Bayer merger
  6. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  7. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  8. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference