BERLIN (AP) — Germany wants Britain to remain an "active and committed" European Union member but is firm in insisting that the principle of free movement of workers within the bloc isn't negotiable, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Monday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, facing pressure from Britain's anti-EU UK Independence Party ahead of elections next year, wants to take steps to limit the level of migration from the EU into Britain.
That plan could put him at odds with a core principle of the 28-nation bloc. He hasn't yet made formal proposals.
German weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday, without identifying sources, that German officials could envision giving up efforts to keep Britain in the EU if Cameron insists on immigration limits. It said Merkel told Cameron that at a recent EU summit.
Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany isn't considering hypothetical scenarios and it's up to Britain to decide what role it wants to play in the EU.
Merkel has always stressed that "we want an active and committed Great Britain in a strong European Union," he said.
She also has made clear that "fighting possible abuse of freedom of movement is a legitimate interest, an interest that we share," Seibert added. But he insisted that "freedom of movement in general must not be questioned — we see in that an important European achievement."
Merkel has spoken out repeatedly in favor of Britain — a useful but sometimes awkward German ally on matters such as free trade and budget discipline — staying in the EU. She said in June that she is "not indifferent to whether Great Britain is a member of the European Union or not."
More broadly, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU in advance of a possible referendum on its continued membership.