David Cameron travels to Prague for EU reform talks

Published: Friday 22nd January 2016 by The News Editor

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David Cameron will travel to Prague in the latest leg of his diplomatic offensive ahead of next month’s crunch summit on his demands for European Union reforms.

The Prime Minister will hold talks with his counterpart president Milos Zeman and Bohuslav Sobotka in the Czech capital in an effort to win support for his reforms, including the thorny issue of action to curb EU migration.

Mr Cameron has insisted he is in “no hurry” to secure a deal on a package of changes to Britain’s EU membership at the upcoming Brussels summit in February but if a suitable agreement is reached he will “sell it very hard” to the public ahead of the promised in/out referendum.

A deal at the European Council of February 18-19 is widely seen as essential if Mr Cameron is to stage the plebiscite before the summer.

The Prime Minister will travel to the Czech Republic after finishing his engagements in Davos, where he used the World Economic Forum meeting to push his case with a number of fellow EU leaders.

In his speech at the Swiss ski resort he said he was ready to be “patient” in order to get the right result.

He said: “I very much hope that we can, with the goodwill that is clearly there, reach an agreement at the February European Council. I would like that.

“I want to confront this issue, I want to deal with it, I want to put that question to the British people in a referendum, and go out and campaign to keep Britain in a reformed European Union. If there is a good deal on the table I will take it, and that’s what will happen.

“But I do want to be very clear: if there isn’t the right deal, I’m not in a hurry. I can hold my referendum at any time up until the end of 2017, and it’s much more important to get this right than to rush it.”

Britain’s demands for change on the four issues of migration, sovereignty, competitiveness and protection for non-euro states were “not outrageous asks”, but offered “a huge prize”, he said.

Mr Cameron’s proposal for a four-year ban on migrants claiming in-work benefits in the UK has become the main stumbling block, with the Government prepared to consider other options if they meet the aim of curbing the numbers coming from other member states.

The UK has been working to persuade members of the Visegrad Group – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary – to support the plans.

In December the group issued a joint statement saying they would back measures aimed at strengthening competitiveness and increasing the role of national parliaments but they “consider free movement one of the fundamental values of the European Union and will support no proposal that would be discriminatory or restrictive with regard to this freedom”.

Before the visit to Prague the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman acknowledged the migration measures would be one of the key topics of discussion.

Published: Friday 22nd January 2016 by The News Editor

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