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Cameron, Merkel set for talks on EU, immigration

Cameron, Merkel set for talks on EU, immigration

Merkel - Cameron - Photo EU Council

(LONDON) - British Prime Minister David Cameron will use a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to London on Wednesday to try to secure her support for his plans for EU reform, including on restricting immigration.

Merkel's day trip to London, which will also include a visit to an exhibition on Germany, is part of a tour of foreign capitals intended to pave the way for the G7 summit in Bavaria in June 7 and 8.

"We must do more to make the EU more stable and competitive than it is today," the leaders said in a joint statement before their talks at Downing Street.

They added: "We must do more to harness the potential of the single market and reduce regulation that is hampering business."

The discussions will likely include Cameron's desire to limit the influx of European Union immigrants to Britain ahead of his proposed referendum on the country's membership of the bloc by 2017.

In November, he outlined plans to curb welfare payments for EU migrants to try to stop them coming to Britain but admitted this will require a revision of EU treaties, with all the upheaval that could bring to EU capitals.

Merkel has said she will oppose any challenge to the principle of free movement of labour within the bloc and is against treaty change.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker in December also warned Cameron against "beating up" on poorer east Europeans working legally in Britain.

But with four months to a general election, at which the anti-EU, anti-immigration UK Independence Party presents a real challenge to Cameron's Conservative Party, the prime minister is under pressure to deliver.

Cameron has warned that he rules nothing out in his attempts to secure reform, and some in his centre-right party are demanding the country leave altogether.

"The key areas are safeguarding the single market, getting out of ever closer union, being able to veto regulation and a package of measures on welfare," Cameron said in a newspaper interview last weekend.

"If you look at the reaction to my welfare speech in Germany and one or two European capitals, you will see they gave it a broad welcome. Germany wants Britain to stay in Europe."

But Merkel is dealing with many other issues, including large anti-immigration rallies at home, the crisis with Russia over Ukraine and the prospect of Greece leaving the euro if the far-left wins election later this month.

And despite their championing of EU reform, some in the British press admitted that the German chancellor may be losing patience with Britain's increasingly shrill euroscepticism.

"The British government's increasing desperation to be delivered from its European muddle is matched only by the increasing German irritation with Britain's tunnel vision," wrote Roger Boyes, diplomatic editor of The Times.

Cameron's official spokesman meanwhile played down reports that the European Commission is raising objections to a key plank of his renegotiation proposals, which would require EU jobseekers to have an offer of work before coming to Britain.

Ahead of their talks, Cameron and Merkel were to visit the "Germany: Memories of a Nation" exhibition at the British Museum, dedicated to telling the story of the last 600 years of German history.

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