EU must reform to keep Britain in, says senior German MEP
Published 08/05/2015 | 15:57
David Cameron's bid to renegotiate Britain's European Union membership received an early boost as an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested major changes to European rules.
Mr Cameron, re-elected on a promise to hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017, is already under pressure from Conservative MPs to deliver significant changes in the relationship.
Some European leaders have previously warned that big changes to EU rules just to accommodate Britain are unlikely.
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But following Mr Cameron's election victory, some have suggested that concessions are possible.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative group in the European Parliament and an ally of Mrs Merkel, hinted that Europe should now consider major changes.
However, Mr Weber also warned that fundamental EU rules like the right to free movement cannot be changed.
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"On the referendum, the ball is in Mr Cameron’s court. He has to put his demands on the table. But EU freedoms will not be negotiable," Mr Weber said.
"We Europeans must also start thinking about whether it is time for a larger treaty reform."
Germany has previously been wary of major changes to the EU treaties, fearful that opening up the treaties for Britain would prompt other countries to demand changes.
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Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, also said he looked forward to discussing changes with Mr Cameron.
His spokesman however said that EU rights like free movement were not negotiable.
However, Mr Juncker wants “to see and receive UK proposals on reform," the spokesman said.
"In the spirit of friendliness and openness we are ready of course to discuss those in our quest for a fair deal."
The comments will raise Conservative hopes that Mr Cameron can now win changes that are significant enough to persuade British voters -- and Conservative MPs -- to vote with him for Britain to stay in the EU.