Wednesday

19th Dec 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"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.

Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU

Malta's PM already enjoys the kind of one-man rule Hungary and Poland are trying to build, but can the EU afford another political confrontation in sensitive times?

Interview

Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice

Katya Mateva, a former director in Bulgaria's ministry of justice turned whistleblower, says high-ranking politicians behind a scam leading to Bulgarian citizenship are likely to go unpunished.

MEPs and EU staff hid from Strasbourg gunman

MEPs and others hid in restaurants and alleys in Strasbourg during a gunman's rampage on Tuesday which left at least three dead and France on emergency alert.

News in Brief

  1. Financial Times picks Soros as 'Person of the Year'
  2. Italy strikes last-minute deal with EU over budget
  3. UK to unveil new immigration rules ending free movement
  4. Belgian PM resigns five months before elections
  5. EU agree to ban throwaway plastics to reduce marine litter
  6. EU agrees 2019 fishing quotas for Atlantic and North Sea
  7. 3,500 UK troops on standby for no-deal Brexit
  8. Brexit: Opposition disagrees over no confidence vote

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Hackers stole thousands of internal EU files
  2. Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU
  3. Orban protests target state media in new front
  4. Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice
  5. EU gives Switzerland another six months for a deal
  6. Fiscal discipline rules in eurozone are devastating
  7. EU capitals see weekend of tear gas and water cannon
  8. Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us