UK Politics

David Cameron holds 'open and frank' EU talks

David Cameron and Charles Michel i Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Cameron met Charles Michel in Brussels

David Cameron has held what were described as "open and frank" talks with the Belgian prime minister over his plans for EU reform.

The PM met Charles Michel and other EU leaders at a summit in Brussels.

Mr Michel said he respected the UK's decision to hold a referendum on its EU membership, but also warned against "discrimination of European employees" under any reforms to welfare.

Mr Cameron has said he is "content" with the reception from leaders so far.

The PM, who also spoke to his counterparts from Spain, Finland and Romania, is seeking support for his plan to renegotiate the UK's membership before holding an in-out referendum.

He has said he wants to speak to all 27 EU counterparts about his agenda for reform and to set out the UK's intentions before they gather for next month's European Council meeting.

Free movement

Mr Cameron is pressing for changes including restrictions on welfare entitlements, greater powers for national Parliaments and an opt-out for Britain from the principle of "ever closer union".

Mr Michel's spokesman said the two leaders had held "open and frank" talks, with the Belgian premier telling Mr Cameron he did not want to see the "dismantlement of the European Union".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Cameron met Romanian President Klaus Iohannis
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption As well as Finish Prime Minister Juha Sipila
Image copyright EPA
Image caption ...and Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy

"In Belgium we believe that the principle of free movement of workers is very important, that non-discrimination and equal rights for European citizens are very important," he said.

"And on these issues, we hope to find agreement in the negotiations".

Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt told the BBC's Daily Politics other countries wanted to see their own reforms.

"It's not only about the wish list of David Cameron. It's going to be a global renegotiation," he said.

EU referendum in focus

Image copyright Getty Images

David Cameron is starting renegotiation of the terms of Britain's EU membership ahead of a referendum. Here is some further reading on what it all means:

Q&A: The UK's planned EU referendum

UK and the EU: Better off out or in?

What Britain wants from Europe

Timeline: EU referendum debate

Mr Cameron has already held talks with the leaders of Europe's two largest economies, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Francois Hollande, as well as the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk.

Speaking as he arrived in Brussels, Mr Cameron told reporters; "I'm content with the progress we've made so far but the referendum will happen by the end of 2017."

British officials told the BBC that the meetings were an opportunity to talk about broad objectives and the prime minister would stress reforms that benefit all 28 members of the EU.

According to a draft communique of June's Council meeting which was published on Wednesday, "the UK" is item number four, due to be discussed in the afternoon.

'Fair settlement'

The meeting is seen as an early litmus test of the progress that the UK is making and where it is meeting resistance.

Speaking in the city of London on Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne said the UK had a series of clear objectives in mind, based on the principle of fairness for all EU members.

He said the aim of the renegotiation was to enable "Britain to be in Europe but not run by Europe".

"We need a settlement that recognises that while the single currency is not for all, the single market and the European Union as a whole must work for all," he said.

"So among the principles we seek to establish in this re-negotiation are these simple ones: fairness between the euro-ins and the euro-outs enshrined, and the integrity of the single market preserved.

"It's in our interests that the Euro is a successful, strong currency. So we're prepared to support the Eurozone as it undertakes the further integration it needs.

"But in return, we want a settlement between the UK and the Eurozone that protects the single market and is stable, fair and lasts."

The prime minister's strategy was boosted on Tuesday when MPs demonstrated overwhelming support for a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

A bill authorising a referendum by the end of 2017 cleared its first parliamentary hurdle, with a majority of 491, although MPs from all sides expressed reservations about issues ranging from the franchise and the likely date of the referendum to rules on government publicity in the run-up to the vote.

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