[BERLIN] German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Britain's David Cameron that putting limits on immigration from other European Union nations would be a "point of no return" that could sharply increase the risk of Britain leaving the EU, a magazine said.
The weekly Der Spiegel, citing unnamed sources in Ms Merkel's office and the German foreign ministry, reported on Sunday that Ms Merkel was becoming worried for the first time that a British exit from the EU - dubbed "Brexit" - was a real possibility.
Under growing pressure from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of a May 2015 national election, Mr Cameron's Conservatives have said they would try to cap immigration from the rest of the EU if re-elected.
Both Ms Merkel and the European Commission in Brussels have said this would violate a fundamental EU principle that allows citizens of the bloc to live and work in any member state.
Spiegel cited sources in Berlin saying that if Mr Cameron does insist on limiting the number of immigrants from other EU states, "there will be no going back". "Should Mr Cameron persist (in this plan), Chancellor Angela Merkel would abandon her efforts to keep Britain in the EU. With that a point of no return would be reached," it quoted the sources as saying, adding: "That would be it then."
There was no suggestion that Germany, the EU's biggest economy and most powerful member, would itself push Britain towards the exit. Ms Merkel has said she strongly backs continued British membership of the 28-nation bloc but not at any price.