David Cameron sets out EU reform goals

David Cameron has outlined his four goals for reforming the UK’s membership of the EU, including restrictions on benefits for people coming to the UK.

He said Britain faced a “huge decision” in the in/out referendum promised before the end of 2017.

But he said he was confident of getting what he wanted from reform talks.

Anti-EU campaigners say the talks are a “gimmick” – and the European Commission said the UK’s benefits proposals could break free movement laws.

Mr Cameron has formally set out his demands in a letter to the president of the European Council, saying four objectives lie at the heart of the UK’s renegotiations:

  • Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries
  • Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape
  • Exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments
  • Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits

Mr Cameron hit back at claims by former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson that the four goals were “disappointingly unambitious”, saying they reflected what the British people wanted and would be “good for Britain and good for the European Union”.

“It is mission possible and it is going to take a lot of hard work to get there,” said the prime minister.

Analysis by BBC Europe Editor Katya Adler

Union Jack and EU flag flying side by sideImage copyrightReuters

Curbing EU migration is by far the most vexed issue, although some areas are welcomed by the majority of other EU countries – such as putting a moratorium on the ability of citizens of new EU members’ to live and work across the EU until their economies have caught up, also cracking down on benefit tourism and limiting child benefits and out-of work benefits for migrants.

The sticking point is undoubtedly in-work benefits. Central and Eastern European countries with a fluid workforce, such as Poland, are loud opponents, although privately they say they would be happy if their best and brightest would think twice before abandoning their homeland.

But it is powerhouse Germany that will be the most stubborn stick in the wheel here.

Discriminating against EU workers goes against one of the founding EU principles – the freedom to work anywhere in the European Union.

Again though, Germany has been clear it will do its utmost to accommodate the UK in its reform demands.

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