Merkel to visit London as Cameron seeks support for overhauling EU

British prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders will meet later this month in London with reform of the  EU high on the agenda.
British prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders will meet later this month in London with reform of the EU high on the agenda.

German chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss the future of the EU with prime minister David Cameron on a visit to London this month, as Britain seeks support for a sweeping overhaul of EU treaties.

Cameron has yet to spell out all his proposals, but has made it clear he wants to curb immigration from new member states, cut red tape, and improve competition.

He has so far garnered only limited backing for his reform plans among other EU states, but hopes to secure a new deal if re-elected next year before holding a referendum on Britain’s EU membership by 2017. Any signs of support from Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy, would strengthen his campaign.

Merkel will visit around Feb 27, according to two sources. One said she would address parliament.

Only a few foreign leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, have addressed the British assembly. The diplomatic privilege was last extended to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013.

The pomp and ceremony expected for Merkel’s visit will contrast with an Anglo- French summit last month when François Hollande, the president, and Cameron held a joint news conference in an aircraft hangar before sharing a pub lunch.

Britain’s ties with Germany are warmer than those with France. Merkel and Cameron are centre- right politicians and Berlin has been more open to his ideas on EU reform than Paris. With a national election approaching in 2015, EU treaty renegotiation is seen as an important test of Cameron’s authority over his ruling Conservative party, which has suffered long-standing divisions over Europe. Many British voters are unhappy over perceived EU interference in Britain’s affairs.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said last week he was not against discussing changes to the treaties, but warned Britain against trying to backtrack on integration.

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