German Chancellor Angela Merkel hints at rethink of freedom of movement rules

Posted On: 
16th November 2016

Angela Merkel has hinted she is open to discussing changes to freedom of movement rules in the wake of the vote for Brexit.

German chancellor Angela Merkel
Credit: 
PA Images

The German chancellor suggested questions over the length of time an EU migrant is in a member state country and their ability to claim welfare could be subject to curbs.

In comments that were seized on by Brexit campaigners, she insisted the EU could not make “exceptions” for Britain, but said the point at which free movement applies would be discussed.

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"Were we to make an exception for the free movement of people with Britain, this would mean we would endanger principles of the whole internal market in the European Union, because everyone else will then want these exceptions," Ms Merkel told a meeting of Germany's BDA employers association.

But on the finer detail of defining free movement, she added: "I personally am of the view that we will have to discuss further with the [European] Commission when this freedom of movement applies from."

Ms Merkel said if an eastern European migrant worked briefly in Germany but could claim welfare for the rest of their life "then I see a question about which we must talk again".

She added: "Free movement applies to me in the sense that the employee himself earns the money he needs for himself and his family in the other member state."

Her comments came just hours after it emerged Boris Johnson had claimed that freedom of movement was a "fundamental" right for EU citizens was "bollocks".

Speaking to a Czech newspaper, the Foreign Secretary said: "It's a total myth - nonsense. It is stupid to say that freedom of movement is a fundamental right. It's something that has been acquired by a series of decisions by the courts.

"And everyone now has in his head that every human being has a fundamental, God-given right to go and move wherever he wants. But it is not. 

"It was never a founding principle of the European Union. It's a complete myth.Total myth."

The leading Brexiteer added: "The idea that freedom of movement is a fundamental right of the EU is just bollocks."