Saturday 17 February 2018

Britain could trigger disintegration of EU, warns Merkel ally

A LEADING member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition has accused Britain of threatening a ‘disintegration’ of the EU by adopting an uncooperative attitude.

Rainer Bruederle, parliamentary leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) who share power with Merkel's conservatives, he wanted Britain to stay in the EU but that he was getting increasingly frustrated with London.

"Our British friends ... constantly give us advice about what we in the euro zone should do but they don't join in themselves. They are not even prepared to agree to the rules for financial markets," Bruederle said.

"If things stay like this and the stance doesn't change - among British Conservatives but also in the Labour Party - you will see alarming developments of disintegration in Europe's structures," he added.

Under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain has been at odds with many of its EU partners on issues ranging from a fiscal stability pact to a financial transaction tax and, most recently, the EU budget.

While Germany agrees with Britain on the need to cut EU spending, it has grown increasingly exasperated by what it sees as Cameron's semi-detached stance, which it fears could lead to Britain sliding out of a bloc distrusted by British public opinion.

Last month, Merkel said she could not imagine a Europe without Britain and urged London to get more engaged. Cameron wants Britain to stay in the bloc but under renegotiated terms.

In the early hours of Thursday, other EU countries granted concessions to Britain to secure a deal giving the European Central Bank powers to supervise euro zone banks from 2014, a step towards further integration to help underpin the euro.

Britain, which does not use the euro, was worried that the ECB would undermine its autonomy in policing the City of London, Europe's top financial centre.

Merkel and Cameron will both attend a summit of EU leaders due to start this evening.

Bruederle said Britain seemed to want special treatment.

"They have a rebate for contributions to the European coffers yet they want to take full advantage of the single market," said Bruederle.

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