Cameron to open EU reform talks with other leaders

Cameron to open EU reform talks with other leaders

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Cameron to open EU reform talks with other leaders.

Prime Minister David Cameron is to begin discussions with other European leaders on his plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU.

At a summit in Latvia, he will outline changes he wants to see, including restrictions on benefits for migrants.

He has promised an in-out referendum on the UK’s EU membership by 2017.

The summit has been called to discuss EU relations with former Soviet states, but Mr Cameron says he will start to raise the issue of his planned reforms.

He said: “I will start discussions in earnest with fellow leaders on reforming the EU and renegotiating the UK’s relationship with it.

“These talks will not be easy. They will not be quick. There will be different views and disagreements along the way.

“But by working together in the right spirit and sticking at it, I believe we can find solutions that will address the concerns of the British people and improve the EU as a whole.”

Context of changes

The prime minister is meeting his European counterparts for the first time since securing his re-election and a majority Conservative government.

Legislation paving the way for the UK referendum – which was promised in the Tories’ election manifesto – is expected to be published next Thursday, the day after the Queen opens Parliament.

BBC deputy political editor James Landale said Mr Cameron will then undertake a whirlwind tour of European capitals to sound out his chances of securing a deal.

The prime minister will not begin detailed negotiations at the Latvia summit, but Downing Street officials said he would set out the context of the changes he wants.

Mr Cameron has not revealed the full details of what he is seeking from any changes, but he is expected to demand an opt-out from one its core principles of forging an “ever-closer union” between member states.

He will also try to get more powers to block or opt out of new EU laws, and for restrictions on welfare benefits for migrants until they have lived in the UK for four years.

In a speech on Thursday, the prime minister said welfare changes would be an “absolute requirement in the renegotiation”.

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European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said he is ready to work for “a fair deal” for the UK but insists key EU principles including freedom of movement are non-negotiable.

This week, a number of business leaders started to highlight the potential implications of the referendum.

The president of the CBI said businesses should “speak out early” in favour of remaining in a reformed EU, while Airbus said it would reconsider UK investment if Britain left.

Deutsche Bank announced it had set up a “working group” to review whether to move parts of its UK divisions to Germany in the event of an exit, but the chairman of construction equipment firm JCB said the UK should not fear leaving.

Mr Cameron has said he wants the UK to stay in a reformed EU but has so far refused to say whether he would start calling for Britain to leave if he does not get what he wants.

The Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems are in favour of staying in the EU. UKIP, which got almost four million votes but only one MP in the election, want to leave.

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