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British press says Merkel gave Cameron little to cheer

28 february 2014, 14:00
Britain's newspapers said Friday that Prime Minister David Cameron had little to cheer from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit as he seeks consensus on reforming EU migration rules, AFP reports.

Merkel urged Britain on Thursday to stay in the European Union but played down Cameron's hopes that her trip to London would help bring major reforms on restricting freedom of movement within the bloc.

The visit clashed with new figures which showed EU migration to Britain increased from 149,000 to 209,000 in the year to September 2013, contributing to an overall increase in net migration from 154,000 to 212,000.

The Times said "Merkel is right: freedom of movement is a core achievement of the EU. Cameron must preserve it while mitigating its costs."

"For some, free movement across the EU is the most pressing reason why Britain should leave it. Their concerns should not be dismissed," it warned.

However, "curbing the free movement of labour that the EU enjoys would be a regressive and economically illiterate step.

"Merkel described freedom of movement as a cornerstone achievement of the EU.

"The arrival of hard-working migrants creates new demand and new jobs, which in turn increases the wealth of all."

The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling daily, said there was "migrant chaos".

"Immigration is out of control. As things stand, it cannot be controlled," the populist tabloid said.

"This is a crucial issue for voters. The Sun has urged David Cameron to make it a red-line demand in his renegotiation with Europe. It is disheartening to learn he can expect little support from Angela Merkel."

The Daily Mail's sketchwriter Quentin Letts said Merkel's monotone address to both houses of parliament "was like listening to train announcements at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof".

"Her message," he added, "though couched in an impeccable dullness, was as unyielding as a pair of chapping lederhosen."

The tabloid's editorial said Merkel gave no hint that she is prepared to negotiate "meaningful change" to EU free movement rules.

"At best, all Mr Cameron will get is tinkering to the lax EU regime on benefit tourism.

"This is extremely unlikely to satisfy his party, the electors who trusted him to cut net migration to the 'tens of thousands' or -- most crucially -- our own unemployed young."

The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, said Cameron could find some encouragement in Merkel's comments.

"While the German chancellor dampened expectations regarding the wider prospect of EU reform, she did say her country shared Britain's concerns about free movement.

"Yes, it was a fundamental principle of membership, but it was not intended to enable people to shop around for the best welfare opportunities."

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