A SENIOR German minister has offered an olive branch to David Cameron on reform of free movement within the European Union warning that a UK exit would be “a catastrophe”.
The Prime Minister has put changes to the free movement within the EU at the heart of his proposals for renegotiating the UK’s membership terms ahead of a referendum he wants to hold in 2017.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
The comments by German deputy finance minister Steffen Kampeter come in a week that foreign secretary Philip Hammond suggested the UK could leave the EU if it failed to win enough concessions.
Crucially, Mr Cameron has put renegotiating free movement at the heart of his negotiations but has been spurned by a number of European leaders on the issue.
However, Mr Kampeter suggested that his government is prepared to make a deal despite confirming Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position that the free movement of labour is non-negotiable.
Mr Kampeter said that Germany also has problems with EU migrants coming to the country to claim superior benefits and said his government is willing to agree to change the rules to prevent this from happening.
He also made it clear that Germanty considers the UK leaving the EU would be a “catastrophe”.
He said: “We are not alone in stating that the Brits should stay in – [Italian Prime Minister] Matteo Renzi stated yesterday it would be a catastrophe [if Britain left].
“We want them [Britain] in and we will find ways to offer Britain a good chance to stay in. And please do not forget opting out is not economically very preferable to the United Kingdom and has many disadvantages.”
He added: “I clearly add that I understand that migration within the EU, into social security systems of single countries, is something we have to finance.
‘But I don’t think that the answer is to limit the free movement of persons. I think we need a European-wide legislation that makes clear that free movement does not mean free movement into social security systems.”
His comments come after those of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who also suggested it would be a “disaster” if the UK quit the EU.
He said: “I think this could be a disaster, a disaster for Europe obviously, I believe also for the UK but this is my opinion.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS