• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Brexit referendum
German business, public back UK EU reform plan
UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: DPA

German business, public back UK EU reform plan

Tom Barfield · 13 Oct 2015, 15:02

Published: 13 Oct 2015 15:02 GMT+02:00

One survey of members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Germany (BCCG) found that large majorities of business leaders backed UK demands, especially those to limit EU migrants' right to claim benefits and to give national parliaments power to block EU legislation.

Meanwhile, a survey of the German public for think-tank Open Europe Berlin found that ordinary people share many of the same opinions – although with one caveat.

"We asked the questions specifically about generalized reforms that would be in force across the EU, not just things that would be 'granted' to the British," Open Europe Berlin director Dr. Michael Wohlgemuth said while presenting the survey to journalists, including The Local, officials and business representatives in Berlin.

"These are general reforms that serve to make the EU more transparent and more subsidiary [with power located at the level of government that makes most sense]," he added.

"What Great Britain is suggesting is supported by large sections of the population. Many of them are in the German interest," said BCCG chief executive Andreas Meyer-Schwickerath.

"They may not be shared in France and Italy, but on most questions the Germans and British are in agreement."

Photo: DPA

Asked whether national parliaments should be able to block EU laws, 61 percent of business people and 64 percent of the public said yes.

And 67 percent of business people and 64 percent of the public agreed that people moving between EU countries should not receive social benefits until they had spent some time paying into the system in their host country.

"If Chancellor Angela Merkel does make concessions to David Cameron [on these issues], that won't be too unpopular with her voters," said Professor Manfred Güllner of the Forsa polling agency.

Majorities for both Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her coalition allies the Social Democratic Party (SPD) were in favour of both propositions.

This was all encouraging news for Philippa Saunders, First Secretary for EU affairs at the British Embassy in Berlin.

"There is a 20 percent difference between the 'Yes' and 'No' vote when you ask the question of Britain staying in Europe with these reforms," she said.

That's important because Brits are unlikely to stay in just for the sake of it.

"In Britain there is a cultural comfortableness with being on your own – being on your own and being right is better than being in an alliance and being wrong," Saunders said.

"Compromise in Britain tends to be a dirty word, it's not a good thing."

That's why Cameron had visited Germany three times already since the UK general election in May, hoping to bring Merkel onside, Saunders noted.

Public ambivalent about Brexit

Convincing Merkel personally is important. But if she follows her frequent pattern of waiting for public opinion to show itself, then following along, German co-operation with Cameron isn't guaranteed.

While almost all the business leaders – 89 percent – said they would be unhappy with Britain leaving the EU, just 55 percent of the general public agreed.

The pollsters didn't ask exactly why ordinary people were so much less concerned.

But a breakdown showed that supporters of the far-left Linke (Left Party) and far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were the least troubled by the idea of Brexit.

Story continues below…

Among the mainstream parties, Green voters (71 percent) would be the least happy to see Britain leave, followed closely by the CDU (68 percent) and the economically liberal Free Democratic Party (66 percent).

That's something that worried Meyer-Schwickerath, given his view that "Europe might fall apart" if the UK were to leave.

"Without Great Britain, Germany could always be outvoted by the 'Club Med' [of southern European countries]," Wohlgemuth explained, pointing out that the Treaty of Nice's qualified-majority voting system on the European Council [of heads of state and government] expires in 2017.

"You mean once the Brits are gone we can just force the Germans to buy us more gold wallpaper?"
French President Francois Hollande (r) with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (l). Photo: DPA

"With the UK, the qualified minority [including Germany] could stop the EU turning into a transfer union [redistributing cash from economically-successful countries to poorer ones] and stop it implementing a top-down industrial policy" as many French and Italians, for example, would like to see.

Meanwhile, the UK was a big positive influence on the core EU values close to Germany's heart, like pushing for a complete free market in goods and services between EU nations and striking free-trade deals with other world economic powers, Wohlgemuth said.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
What we know about the Reutlingen machete attack
Police arrest the attacker. Photo: DPA

... and what we don't.

Munich shooting
Police arrest possible accomplice of Munich gunman
Mourners in Munich. Photo: DPA

Authorities in Munich believe that a friend of the teenager who murdered nine people at a Munich shopping centre may have known about his plans.

Ansbach suicide attack
What we know about the Ansbach suicide bomber
The attacker's rucksack. Photo: DPA

He had had his asylum application rejected and had twice attempted suicide, say authorities.

Ansbach suicide attack
Suicide bomber attacks bar in Bavaria
Photo: DPA

A Syrian migrant set off an explosion at a bar in southern Germany that killed himself and wounded a dozen others late Sunday, authorities said, the third attack to hit Bavaria in a week.

 'One dead and two injured' in Germany machete attack
News channel NTV said there were scenes of panic in the city centre following the attack. Photo: DPA

A 21-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker killed a woman and injured two people with a machete Sunday in the southwest German city of Reutlingen in an incident local police said did not bear the hallmarks of a "terrorist attack".

Munich gunman planned attacks for one year: officials
Vigils continue in Munich to commemorate the victims, seven of whom were teenagers. Photo: DPA

The teenage gunman who killed nine people in Munich on Friday had been planning his attack for a year, according to German authorities.

Germany grapples with enigma of Munich gunman
A debate is already underway as to whether Germany's gun laws, which are already strict, should be tightened further. Photo: AFP

Investigators were seeking clues on Sunday into the mind of gunman David Ali Sonboly, the teen author of one of Germany's bloodiest killing sprees.

Munich shooting
 Social media a blessing and a curse in Munich shooting
The Munich gunman may have hacked a Facebook account to lure some of the victims to the McDonald's fast-food outlet where the shooting began. Photo: DPA

Social networks were both a curse and a blessing in the deadly shopping mall shooting in Munich, as police sometimes found themselves chasing fictitious leads and false alarms.

Munich shooting
Munich pulls together after shopping mall shooting
Photo: DPA

In the chaos after the Munich mall shooting, city residents spontaneously offered shelter to strangers - a move that Chancellor Angela Merkel said showed that Germany's strength lies in its values.

Munich shooting
Merkel deplores 'night of horror' in Munich
Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Munich had suffered a "night of horror" after a shooting spree in the southern German city left nine people dead.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
10,742
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd