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Merkel to seek 'common solutions'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is ready to seek "common solutions" to concerns raised by the UK about the functioning of the European Union, saying: "Where there's a will there's a way."

Speaking at a joint press conference with David Cameron in 10 Downing Street, she insisted there could be no doubt about the principle of freedom of movement of people within the EU but accepted there was a need to tackle the "abuse" of the rules.

The Prime Minister has made measures aimed at curbing immigration a key issue in his plan to renegotiate the UK's ties with Brussels ahead of an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 if he remains in No 10 after May's election.

In his talks with Mrs Merkel the Prime Minister was pressing the case for renegotiation of EU rules, including the right of migrants to claim welfare benefits in other member states.

The German leader's visit, the first in a series of trips to G7 capitals ahead of her hosting the group's annual summit in Bavaria in June, was overshadowed by the murder of journalists and cartoonists of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris

The pair received a briefing from British intelligence services MI5 and MI6 about the atrocity and spoke to France's President Francois Hollande, a call Mrs Merkel described as "moving".

At the press conference with the PM before their working dinner, Mrs Merkel said that there was "great overlap" between priorities which Germany and Britain share to boost trade and growth and cut red tape.

Referring to Mr Cameron's call for a renegotiation of Britain's EU membership, the German Chancellor said: "As regards our future co-operation within the European Union, I can only build on what I said earlier on. Where there is a will, there is a way to find common solutions."

She pointed out that it had been possible to find agreement on the EU's budget - known as the "financial perspective" - despite initial differences with the UK which some thought would block a deal.

"Issues were discussed here in Downing Street on the financial perspective, for example, and it was not at all clear at the time that we would find a way, but we stuck together and we brought about a solution, we found indeed a way," said Mrs Merkel.

"Again, it is in this spirit that we address all the outstanding issues."

Mr Cameron insisted that he backed the principle of freedom of movement but wanted measures to prevent its abuse.

He said: "I support freedom of movement, what I don't support is the abuse of freedom of movement."

Mrs Merkel said: "As David quite rightly said, we have no doubt about the principle of freedom of movement being in any way questioned but we also have to look at abuse of that.

"We are looking at legislation here, we want to see how this plays out at a local level. We want to also say to our local authorities that abuse needs to be fought against so that freedom of movement can prevail.

"One has to take a very close look at the social security systems of individual member states - which are not, after all, part of communal law - to what extent they have to be adjusted to this situation."

The chancellor declined to speculate on the implications for the UK leaving the EU - such as whether it would still be forced to accept free movement as part of any trade deal.

But she made clear her desire for Britain to stay.

"The British citizens will decide. I do not want to hide from how I very much like having the UK in a strong and successful EU."

Mrs Merkel's remarks echoed her comment on EU reforms in a speech to Parliament during her last visit to London in 2014, when she said: "If in the future we clearly formulate the political will to make changes, we will also find the necessary legal avenues to attain our goals."

Downing Street welcomed Mrs Merkel's comments, with a spokeswoman saying: "I think it was significant she underlined where there's a will there's a way."

Ahead of the meeting at Downing Street, Mrs Merkel and Mr Cameron were cheered by waiting crowds as they visited the British Museum exhibition Germany: Memories Of A Nation.

The Chancellor said that the exhibition showed "the very fruitful mutual exchanges, also in past centuries, among European nations (and) the common foundation of our common history".

And she welcomed talks which she and Mr Cameron held with UK and German companies involved in trade between the two countries.

"We mustn't forget that we both have trade links with China, with India, with many Asian countries, many Latin American countries, but the basic foundation of our trade relations is in exchanges with other European countries," said Mrs Merkel.

"The fact that Anglo-German trade has grown so incrementally shows that we are on a very good track for growth."

Mrs Merkel said that the new European Commission appointed last year had made "a very good new beginning", adding: "I think it's very good that cutting red tape, better regulation now plays an increasing role."

She said that Germany would use its G7 presidency to take forward negotiations on the EU/US free trade deal kicked off during Mr Cameron's presidency of the G8 in 2013.

"There is indeed a great overlap as regards our interests and issues which we consider to be important," she said. "We are building on what you, David, laid down as a foundation."

She added: "I think there's a lot of common ground between the United Kingdom and Germany, and at the end of the day a unified position also on European issues with Ukraine and Russia."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said Mr Cameron had abandoned any opposition to freedom of movement.

He told Channel 4 News: " What it means is the red line, the reasonable red line that the British people have got, which is that we should control who comes to live, work, settle in our country - whether they come from the European Union or from Canada or from anywhere else in the world - that frankly the Prime Minister has surrendered that and it won't be part of the renegotiation."

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