Feb. 27 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautions Britain that she can't promise a fundamental reform of Europe that would satisfy all Britain's wishes. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the British parliament on Thursday (February 27) she was not prepared to promise fundamental reform of the European Union for London's sake, but said the bloc did need some changes and that Britain should not leave it. In London for a one-day visit at a time when uncertainty about Britain's future in the EU is rising because of a promise by Prime Minister David Cameron to offer Britons an in/out membership referendum, Merkel suggested she was ready to go some, but not all the way, to meeting some of Cameron's demands. "Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment," Merkel said in English. "Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed, too," she added. Instead, Merkel indicated that she would back Cameron's desire to clamp down on abuse of the EU's freedom of movement rules when it came to welfare benefits, partially back his drive to rein in the European Commission, and that Britain would have a chance - along with everyone else - to submit proposals for reform when deeper integration of the euro zone happened. Under pressure from eurosceptics in his Conservative party and from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of European elections in May and a national vote next year, Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain's EU ties if re-elected and to give Britons an in/out membership referendum. He hasn't spelt out all the reforms he wants, but has made it clear he wants to curb freedom of movement for poorer new EU member states, clamp down on pan-EU "welfare shopping," cut swathes of EU red tape, and improve competitiveness. Merkel's visit is seen as a test of how far he is likely to get in persuading the rest of the bloc to sign up to those and other as yet unspecified reforms since Germany is the bloc's most powerful state and its biggest economy.