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24 November 2015

POLITICO: Germany wants to be a Brexit broker

A Berlin-based task force is working to smooth the talks on Britain’s proposed EU reforms.

Officials said Berlin is planning to use its influence with other countries to resolve potential disputes over reforms which the U.K. is demanding ahead of a referendum vote on its EU membership, including on the increasingly problematic issue of migration policy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made no secret of her strong desire to keep the U.K. in the Union, and her government has set up a Berlin-based Brexit task force to troubleshoot the proposed reforms.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has already set out the boundaries of the coming debate, telling other EU leaders that if they want to keep Britain in the Union the bloc needs to do more to boost competitiveness, give non-eurozone countries more of a say in economic policy, strengthen the role of national parliaments, and give Britain an opt-out out of the Lisbon treaty phrase “ever closer union.”

But the discussions in coming weeks and months will be thorny, especially over Cameron’s demand to curtail welfare benefits to EU migrants who move to the U.K., which critics say would be an infringement of the freedom of movement for EU citizens, as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. [...]

The Berlin task force on Brexit is being led by Klaus Zillikens, head of the northern European division in Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Zillikens — a former head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s mission in eastern Ukraine in 2014 — has been meeting with members of the EU affairs unit responsible for treaty changes within the German foreign office.

The goal has been to come up with reform proposals that Cameron can sell at home while averting a change to the EU treaty, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The team has been working closely with the U.K. to explore solutions such as protocol changes and secondary legislation. In addition to looking for ways to address the British reform proposals, it is also considering worst-case scenarios if U.K. voters eventually vote against staying in the EU, according to multiple sources. [...]

Full article on POLITICO


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