David Cameron meets Angela Merkel: what's on the agenda?

A single unguarded comment by Merkel 'could torpedo Cameron's promised EU renegotiation'

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05:In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron attend the first working meet
(Image credit: 2013 Host Photo Agency)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is paying a flying visit to the UK today in what some say could be one of David Cameron's most important meetings in office.

The visit has already prompted a political spat, with Labour complaining that the Foreign Office did not send out the usual notification to say that a state leader was making an official visit. The opposition party claims it has not therefore had time to organise a meeting with the chancellor.

Merkel will instead be visiting the British Museum's Germany exhibition before an hour-long private discussion with Cameron in Downing Street and then a joint press conference. Their talks will continue over dinner at Number 10 before Merkel returns home.

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What will they be discussing?

Merkel's visit is primarily to discuss her agenda for the G7 summit in Bavaria, including the European economy and security issues such as the Ukraine crisis, the Ebola response and the threat from the Islamic State. A spokesman for 10 Downing Street has said there will also be opportunities to discuss EU reform. In a joint statement ahead of the meeting, Cameron and Merkel said both countries must do more to make the EU more "stable and competitive".

What does Cameron want to achieve?

The prime minister looks certain to raise the issue of his proposed reforms to the EU, covering areas such as work, welfare and border controls. He has already said that the changes – which he hopes will be implemented ahead of an in-out referendum in the UK – would require a treaty change and support from all 28 members. The Daily Telegraph notes that it is Merkel who holds the key to this crucial bid to get re-elected. A single unguarded comment by Merkel "could torpedo Mr Cameron's promised European renegotiation before it has even started", says the newspaper. The question is whether Merkel will signal an agreement to extensive renegotiation of the EU Treaty or whether she will call Cameron's bluff and challenge him to pull out of the EU.

What are Merkel's views?

The chancellor has insisted that the freedom of movement principle in the EU is non-negotiable, despite facing increasing disquiet about immigration back at home. This week in Dresden 18,000 people turned out to protest against the "Islamisation of the West", with immigration in Germany at a 20-year high. But the Telegraph says there is a basic difference between the British and German immigration debates: Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, while Britain has one of the highest. Merkel will therefore be aware of the need for a plentiful supply of migrant workers in Germany and has urged Germans to shun anti-immigration protesters. "Where Merkel offers a globally applicable humanitarian vision, Cameron offers migrant welfare curbs," says The Guardian.

What is the likely outcome?

Merkel may outline what she can do to help keep Britain in the EU, but this looks set to be limited. She is expected to back Cameron's calls for reforms but to also remind him that Germany will not back any British demands for a major rewrite of existing EU treaties, says the Financial Times. The newspaper adds: "Berlin wishes to avoid raising British expectations about what Germany can do to help keep the UK inside the EU in the face of rising euroscepticism in Britain and the prospect of a membership referendum."

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