German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that Britain could not get concessions on the freedom of movement while retaining full access to the European single market, or other countries would want the same.
Britain, which is leaving the European Union, faces the challenge of securing a new trading deal with the EU while also giving London more control over migration from the bloc, potentially falling foul of the EU’s freedom of movement principle that is key for accessing its single market.
“If I start making concessions on the freedom of movement, then another country will tomorrow come and say: ‘I don’t want so many Bulgarians and Romanian workers either’,” Merkel told a conference of the youth wing of her Christian Democrats (CDU).
“And then a third country will come and then the extreme forces from Europe will come and then we’ll soon all be closing our borders again and not having any freedom at all and then that’s no longer Europe,” she added.
She said whether Britain would get access to the European single market depended on whether it accepted the EU’s four freedoms, including the freedom of movement of people.
“If Britain says no, it can’t get full access to the European single market,” she said.
Merkel said that while she was very fond of Britain and regretted its decision to quit the EU – which she considered a major break in the bloc’s history – she could not start calling the EU itself into question.
“I would always think in favor of Great Britain but always with the thought that we 27 member states want to keep our Europe,” she said.