29th Feb 2024

Merkel the UK's 'most important partner' on EU reform

German chancellor Angela Merkel is the UK's "most important partner" in reforming the EU, the UK foreign minister has said.  

Speaking on BBC television on Sunday (23 February), William Hague commented that the German leader "knows, and I believe she understands, what our Prime Minister David Cameron has been putting forward, that this is the age…of flexibility, accountability and competitiveness."

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He added: "Germany is our most important partner on seeking reform in the European Union because it's Germany that has such a strong position in the eurozone, that has managed to maintain a dynamic economy itself."

Cameron regards Merkel as a potentially key ally in his fight to reform the EU and re-negotiate Britain's membership terms over the next three years.

Both are keen for the bloc to focus on improving economic competitiveness, cutting regulation for businesses and completing the single market.

As a result, the German Chancellor is set to receive a lavish diplomatic welcome during her visit on Thursday, with an agenda that includes addressing both chambers of the Westminster Parliament and tea with the Queen.

The 'red carpet' treatment is in stark contrast to recent visit by French president Francois Hollande, who was offered lunch in Cameron's local pub before giving a low-key press conference on anglo-french defence co-operation.

Unlike Hollande who has dismissed calls for the EU treaties to be re-opened any time soon, Merkel is more amenable to the idea, although she wants any treaty revision to focus on deeper economic integration of the eurozone.

However, the need for "some repatriation of powers" from Brussels was included in her christian democrat party's election manifesto last year.

Officials have indicated that the EU's free movement rules will be on the agenda for talks, with both leaders keen to crack down on so-called 'benefits tourism'.

"I'm sure these subjects will come up," said Hague, adding: "Germany also has strict benefit rules, Germany does not want its benefits system to be abused." 

The allocation of the EU's top jobs following May's European elections and the crisis in Ukraine are also set to be discussed.

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