Europe David Cameron and Angela Merkel in EU reform talks

David Cameron and Angela Merkel in EU reform talks

David Cameron will hold talks with Angela Merkel later
David Cameron will hold talks with Angela Merkel later

David Cameron will try to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to back him over EU reforms as the two leaders hold face-to-face talks later.

The PM is on a whistle-stop tour of Europe trying to gather support for changes he wants before holding the UK’s EU membership referendum.

He urged his fellow EU leaders to be “flexible and imaginative”.

But one of Germany’s most senior businessmen said Europe should refuse to negotiate with him.

Volker Treier, who is deputy chief executive of Germany’s chamber of commerce and industry, told the BBC the German business world was “astonished” the UK was holding a referendum at all.

Asked how far Ms Merkel should go in accommodating Britain’s requests, he said: “Our recommendation is not to deal under such circumstances.”

Mr Cameron, who is also visiting Poland on Friday, has not set out in full detail the reforms he is pushing for, but they will include tougher rules to prevent migrants claiming benefits.

He also wants safeguards to protect the City of London in the event of closer eurozone integration and an exemption for Britain from the EU drive for “ever closer union”.

Securing the backing of Ms Merkel, who leads Europe’s largest economy, will be crucial to his chances of negotiation success.

She has previously said she wanted the UK in a “strong and successful Europe” while stressing the importance of the free movement principle, which has seen a rise in the number of EU migrants coming to the UK.

David Cameron's first meeting of the day was with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz
David Cameron’s first meeting of the day was with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz

Mr Cameron is having breakfast with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz on Friday morning before travelling to Berlin.

Speaking ahead of the visit Rafal Trzaskowski, Poland’s Minister for European Affairs, told the BBC they would listen but that any treaty change would be very difficult.

“The European Union needs Great Britain, the discussion will not be easy,” he said.

“As far as treaty changes are concerned or the introduction of discriminatory measures, that would be a red line for Poland.”

He added: “If every country comes with a shopping list to change European Union policies, that will be the end of the European construction, it will simply implode.”

Mr Cameron’s four-country tour – taking in the Netherlands and France on Thursday, followed by Poland and Germany on Friday – was “carefully thought-out”.

The Netherlands and Germany were seen as “open to reforming the single market”, she said, while France was “trickier” and Poland seen as a “rising star”.

Ahead of formal negotiations “tone is as important as content”, she said, adding: “As he travels around Europe he will find an appetite for reform – but David Cameron’s trickiest trick will be to persuade leaders that his way is the right way.”

Mr Cameron has met French President Francois Hollande
Mr Cameron has met French President Francois Hollande

During his talks with the French President, Francois Hollande, Mr Cameron said: “The status quo is not good enough”.

“I believe there are changes we can make that will not just benefit Britain, but the rest of Europe too,” he added.

Mr Cameron’s tour coincided with the publication of his government’s EU Referendum Bill, which contains details of the question and the commitment to staging the vote by the end of 2017.

Downing Street wants voters to be asked the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”

The Electoral Commission suggested this form of words – which would make those campaigning to stay in the EU the Yes campaign – in 2013.

Labour is backing the bill, meaning it is likely to speed through the House of Commons.


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