Brussels: British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged his sceptical EU counterparts at a summit to “work together to fix” the bloc and meet his controversial reform demands.
Over dinner in Brussels yesterday, Cameron said his demands for limits on welfare benefits for migrants from the European Union were necessary to limit immigration to what he said was his overburdened country and to stop Brussels encroaching on London’s powers.
“We have got to address this worry of the British people that they will be taken against their will into a political project. This is a fear that has undermined British public trust in the EU for a number of years,” Cameron told his counterparts, according to an account of his remarks released by British officials.
“Are we going to find the flexibility to address the concerns of the UK and work together to fix this?”
European Council President Donald Tusk and French President Francois Hollande both warned earlier that Cameron’s demands that EU migrants be in Britain for at least four years before getting benefits were “unacceptable”.
But Cameron, who has promised to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on a possible “Brexit” from the 28-nation bloc, said changes were necessary to address the concerns of British voters.
“The levels of migration we have seen in a relatively short period of time are unprecedented, including the pressures this places on communities and public services,” Cameron told his fellow leaders.
“This is a major concern of the British people that is undermining support for the European Union. We need to find an effective answer to this problem.
“Countries need flexibility so they can make changes to their welfare systems to better manage migration.”
European sources said Cameron hoped that the summit discussion would produce enough progress on the key issues so that officials could go away and thrash out a deal that could be approved at the next EU meeting in February.