Westerwelle Warning: German Foreign Minister Urges Britain to Stay in EU

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European politicians are nervously awaiting a speech by British Prime Minister David Cameron that they hope will clarify his stance on the country's position in the European Union. Germany's foreign minister is already warning against efforts by the euroskeptic wing of his party to make an exit.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants the EU to change. Zoom
REUTERS

UK Prime Minister David Cameron wants the EU to change.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is under mounting pressure these days -- at least when it comes to Europe. Given the choice, the euroskeptic wing of his Conservative Party would prefer to bolt the European Union. Later this month, Cameron is expected to hold a major speech about Britain's position in Europe, one that could provide insight into where his conservative-liberal coalition government will steer London in the future and the price it will charge for Britain to remain a part of the EU.

The increasingly shrill tone of the domestic debate over the EU is being viewed by politicians in Berlin with concern. "With a view to the current debate over Great Britain's role in the EU, I would say: Germany desires a Great Britain that will remain a constructive and active partner in the EU," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Friday.

With his comments, Westerwelle sought to address growing demands from some political camps in Britain demanding that the country leave the 27-nation bloc. "As has been the case so far, the European house will also have different levels of integration, but we would like a deeper and better EU of 27, with Great Britain," the foreign minister said.

On Monday, Michael Link, a minister of state in the German Foreign Ministry, and British Europe Minister David Lidington are scheduled to meet in Berlin as part of the third annual German-British consultation between deputy ministers from the two countries who deal with EU issues.

In a BBC interview, Cameron recently ensured that Great Britain wants to remain a full member of the EU. But if his government is to provide its support for the deeper integration of the euro zone, of which Britain is not a member, then he also wants a few demands fulfilled in exchange. Among other things, he wants to see the European Working Time Directive, which codifies vacation rights and limits working hours, eliminated. He also wants to curb access of EU migrants to the British social system.

Most recently, Cameron rejected the European fiscal pact that had been championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and has since been implemented. The pact went into effect in January and stipulates that signatories implement so-called debt brake balanced-budget legislation by the end of the year and to accept automatic sanctions if they violate those deficit rules. The only EU member states that have not signed on to the fiscal pact are Britain and the Czech Republic.

Washington Also Expresses Concern

A potential secession from the EU has long been a classic element of the domestic political debate in Britain. Cameron himself has offered his most vociferous critics in his party a referendum on the country's EU membership, most recently last October. Such a vote, he said at the time, would be the best way to reach a new agreement with the EU.

The right wing of the Conservative Party has been particularly tenacious in their demands for a referendum. Additional pressure has been heaped on the prime minister by the success of the right-wing United Kingdom Independent Party, which is currently the third-strongest party in public opinion polls.

Cameron, who would like to see his country remain in the EU club, is in a difficult spot. Whereas a significant chunk of his party is opposed to Brussels, wary of EU bureaucracy and afraid that Britain is losing its national sovereignty, the country's economic success depends on its close ties with Europe. Indeed, leading members of the British business community this week warned Cameron in an ad in the Financial Times against attempting to renegotiate the country's membership terms. Such a plan could damage business relations, they said.

The US also views with concern the anti-EU course currently being charted in London. US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon warned London this week against seceding from the EU. "We have a growing relationship with the European Union as an institution which has a growing voice in the world -- and we want to see a strong British voice in that European Union," he said. "That is in the American interest."

Just how important Europe -- and particularly Germany -- is to the British economy was made clear recently by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne during a visit to Berlin. "More than half of all British exports go to the EU," Osborne said in an interview with the German daily Die Welt. "We sell more to North Rhine-Westphalia than we do to India. British companies employ 200,000 people in Germany with 400,000 Britons working for German companies in Great Britain."

Following a lunch with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, he said he very much hopes that his country will remain in the EU. "But for us to stay in the European Union, the EU must change."

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1. The Great Achievement of the "EU": Anthem
Morthole 01/11/2013
"Ever Deeper Integration = Ever Deeper Hatreds" in Europe, North - South - East - West.
2. "More than half of all British exports go to the EU," Osborne said
Morthole 01/11/2013
This is a lie peddled by "EU"-apologists based on the exports that are actually destined for the rest of the world that are shipped via e.g. Rotterdam, but counted as exports to the "EU". At the moment far less than 50% of British exports are destined for the "EU" region, whose share is declining with the "rest of world" increasing. However Britain still imports from the "EU" more than exports to it, therefore Britain has little to lose by leaving. Those "EU" states will not want to wave goodbye to such a large European market, but the "EU" will have to wave good-bye to our tax-payers' grudging contibutions to an anti-democratic organisation from which it receives only headaches in return. Mr Obama and Mrs Merkel can dictate what they like about how they envisage a sovereign state's future, but they must accept the truth whatever the consequence in the short term : the "EU" is no friend of Britain where the majority want OUT.
3. Differences of opinion
Iwantout 01/11/2013
The British Chambers of Commerce issued a survey of its 100,000 businesses on 19/07/12. The results showed 12% wanted to leave the EU entirely, 47% wanted a looser connection and a grand total of 9% wanted to join the EU in further integration. In other words 59% believes they would be better placed to conduct profitable business outside the EU while only 9% thought the reverse. So on the one hand you have the CBI and on the other the BCC, both highly respectable business organisations employing millions of workers and with fundamental different views of what their members want. The CBI has a long history of pushing for more involvement with the EU and threatening the collapse of the UK if we do not listen to them. But then again didn’t the CBI say joining the euro was vital for business interests, we were warned that by not joining we would do major damage to the UKs prospects. Umm….. not sure how their track record stands up to examination.
4. Short-sighted
pmoseley 01/11/2013
Morthole's views are typical of the short-sighted populist attitudes that are peddled by sections of the British press and right-wing in the UK. A selfish, ignorant, insular and xenophobic march to economic ruin and decline in world influence based on some notion of great British nationhood that belongs in the past. I accept that Britain has a history and economic conditions that has led to friction with the EU, and there should be attempts made at significant reform within the EU, but the UK should be working to influence this reform and to align itself more closely to its main trading partners instead of constantly snapping at its heels and bleating about leaving. As a Brit, I often feel ashamed at the antics of the British press, right-wing Tories and weak, flustered Cameron, and the sooner he leaves office the better. Not everyone in the UK is blinkered in the same way that Morthole is.
5. Bad time to leave....
phillipwh 01/11/2013
When Britain 'dropped' the empire, Australia, New Zealand were left in the lurch! Of course the Empire existed for the benefit of the British monied, and then the benefits were in Europe! I wonder if Scotland would leave the EC? Ireland would not! Britain with its own debt problems could find themselves without friends! Don't come BooHooing to Australia Mr Cameron!
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