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Germany should copy UK’s Rwanda policy, says leader of Merkel’s party



Germany should copy the UK’s Rwanda policy because it will deter asylum seekers from Europe, the country’s opposition leader has said.

Friedrich Merz also admitted that Berlin and Brussels were partly to blame for Brexit after failing to offer then prime minister David Cameron meaningful EU reforms before the 2016 referendum.

Mr Merz said he was “firmly convinced” the Rwanda approach would work. It was “something we could emulate” and would be “a signal that we’re just not going to accept everybody here,” he said.

His centre-Right CDU is Germany’s most popular party and polling far ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD. The country’s next general election must be held by October 2025.

“The mere prospect that you won’t end up in the promised land of Germany, and that you’ll have to apply for asylum in a third country – say Albania, if you’re trying to get into Italy, or Rwanda if you’re aiming for the UK – will reduce the number of asylum-seekers,” Mr Merz said.

“It is clearly going to deter people, especially young men making their way to Europe who have no real prospect of being granted asylum,” he told the Financial Times (FT).

The CDU draft party programme calls for migrants to be sent to a “safe third country”, where they will stay even if their claim is successful, in a similar fashion to the controversial Rwanda plan.

Other European countries have mulled Rwanda-style arrangements which allow for offshore processing of migrants but for successful asylum seekers to enter the country.

In November last year, a reluctant Mr Scholz bowed to pressure from the leaders of German states and agreed to “examine” offshore asylum processing. 

He warned there were many legal questions to be answered amid claims the Rwanda plan breaks the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘Conservative again’

The CDU manifesto is being seen as a swing to the Right and a jettisoning of Angela Merkel’s legacy, which Mr Merz denied.

The former Chancellor threw open Germany’s borders to 1.1m Syrian refugees during the 2015 migrant crisis, a grand gesture her supporters argue saved the EU and freedom of movement.

“We are a conservative party again,” Mr Merz told the FT. 

“The CDU was always Christian-social, liberal and conservative at the same time. But we recently hid away the conservative party, rather shamefacedly. Now we’re saying [it] out loud.”

He said that the refugee crisis was “definitely a factor” in the vote for Brexit in 2016.  Mr Merz, who lost out to Mrs Merkel in a power struggle in the early 2000s, also implied she could have done more to help swing the vote in favour of Remain.

“The continental Europeans were not entirely blameless when it came to Brexit,” he said.

‘Plethora of opportunities’

Lord Cameron asked Brussels for a string of reforms and opt-outs for the UK in the run-up to the 2016 referendum but the final package of changes failed to impress.

Mr Merz said: “David Cameron asked for changes to EU social policy and came back to London empty-handed.

“We didn’t do enough to help them come to a different referendum result.”

He added: “We Germans have a huge strategic interest in keeping the UK closely engaged in Europe.

“We have a plethora of opportunities, at least in foreign and defence policy, that we should explore together.”

Mr Merz has a good chance of becoming Chancellor but faces competition from other more personally popular CDU politicians to stand for the role.

He has triumphed in several regional elections but failed in his ambition to halve support for the Alternative for Germany party.

The far-Right anti-migrant party is polling at 16 per cent, the same as Scholz’s SPD, but far behind the CDU, which is predicted to take 30 per cent of the vote.

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