Wednesday 28 September 2016

Merkel: British EU demands are 'justified' and 'necessary'

Michael Wilkinson and Kevin Doyle

Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has said that British renegotiation demands for its EU membership are "justified".

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In a helpful intervention for UK Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of today's crunch EU council meeting, she said: "Cameron's demands are far from being demands that are just for Britain. They are also European demands and many of them are justified and necessary.

"I think it's in our national interest that Great Britain should remain an active member in a strong and successful EU."

However, French President François Hollande was said to be poised to tell Mr Cameron that what is on the table will not get any better and there can be "no bidding" at the decisive summit tonight.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to chair a Cabinet meeting in Dublin this morning before travelling to Brussels for the meeting.

It is understood the Coalition will give strong support to Mr Cameron's bid to reform the payment of Child Benefit to parents of children who are in their home country.

The proposal is to index Child Benefit paid overseas to the rate of payment in the home country.

If agreed, it will be possible for the Department of Social Protection to implement the option to index child benefits to the standards of living of other Member States.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has previously raised the issue at EU level and her officials have worked with the UK and a number of other like-minded countries to develop some proposals which were submitted to the EU Commission.

Separately, a leaked text reveals how Belgium, France, Hungary and Spain plan to trim back Mr Cameron's deal, and then prevent it being copied to halt a "contagion" of reform across Europe.

It is understood several EU leaders will seek to water down his welfare reforms, limiting them solely to newly arrived migrants, and weaken a mechanism sought by British Chancellor George Osborne to prevent eurozone countries from ganging up against the City of London.

The document, detailing each country's negotiating position, has been prepared by a European foreign ministry.

It underscores how Mr Cameron's interlocutors are comparing notes ahead of talks that are expected to run until dawn.

Meanwhile, in London, Mr Cameron called Boris Johnson into 10 Downing Street yesterday in a bid to persuade him to back his EU deal.

But when Mr Johnson left 40 minutes later he told reporters: "I'll be back. No deal."

Sources close to Mr Johnson say that his final decision on whether he supports the PM is "very finely balanced" and that he is "genuinely conflicted" over whether to support the EU deal.

Ms Merkel stressed that "Europe needs Great Britain's foreign and security policy commitment to assert our values and interests in the world."

On migrants, Ms Merkel made it clear that she won't be pushing the contentious subject of new quotas to distribute migrants around Europe.

She reiterated that it would be "laughable" for Europe to approve such quotas when it has barely started to share refugees under existing agreements.

Irish Independent

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