German chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a “strong” Britain to join Germany in striving for EU reform on her first UK state visit.
In an address to MPs at the Houses of Parliament, Chancellor Merkel said Europe needed “a United Kingdom with a strong voice” in pushing through reforms, but also said she would not pave the way for fundamental EU reform in response to British demands for change.
She also defended the EU’s record of “almost half a century of peace, freedom and prosperity” and said that the 28-nation bloc – battered by the economic crisis and the instability of the Euro – can still serve as “a model for other regions of the world”.
Merkel’s warning of her speech being “disappointing” dealt a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who is seeking changes to the UK-EU relationship while proposing an in/out vote on full membership by the end of 2017.
But figures from UK manufacturing have welcomed Mrs Merkel’s words, with EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler believing the speech sets out in a clear manner the key role Britain must continue to play in Europe.
“Chancellor Merkel’s comments reinforce the benefits of our membership of the EU,” he said.
“Manufacturing businesses agree that Britain must remain an active partner inside the union, calling for reforms to support business growth, jobs and wider prosperity. The rest of Europe knows the benefits of Britain being in the EU as does the majority of UK businesses.”
The address was also backed by the Confederation of British Industry, with chief policy officer Katja Hall supporting Merkel’s call for reforms to the current EU structure in order to remain competitive while increasing jobs and growth.
““We need reform for the whole EU, with a Commission that better respects national boundaries, and for that to happen the Government must continue building partnerships in European capitals,” she said.