Cameron urges EU to build flexible union

2015-11-10 17:00

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London - British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday urged EU leaders to develop a "flexible union of free member states," setting out four key areas where he wants to negotiate reforms.

Cameron, who has listed his demands in a letter to EU President Donald Tusk, said he wants to protect the European single market with binding principles that "guarantee fairness" for eurozone and non-eurozone EU nations.

His proposed reforms would make the EU more competitive and expand its global trade links, and exempt Britain from the requirement to pursue "ever closer union."

They also aim to "tackle abuses of the right to free movement" inside the EU, Cameron said in a speech at Chatham House, a London-based think tank.

"As we have seen so spectacularly across Europe with the questions posed by the migration crisis, countries need greater controls to manage the pressures of people coming in," Cameron said.

"Right now the pressures are too great," he said of migration to Britain from other EU countries.

British leaders "believe in an open economy," Cameron said. "But we've got to be able to cope with all the pressures that free movement can bring - on our schools, our hospitals and our public services."

He said he wants to restrict the right to benefits for EU migrants, including the introduction of a four-year qualification period for access to housing and other benefits.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership before holding an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

But he warned that he could campaign for Britain to leave the bloc if he is not satisfied with the outcome of his negotiations.

"We believe in a flexible union of free member states who share treaties and institutions, working together in a spirit of cooperation to advance our shared prosperity," he said.

"I have every confidence that we will achieve an agreement that works for Britain and works for our European partners," Cameron said.

"But if we can't reach such an agreement and if Britain's concerns were to be met with a deaf ear, which I do not believe will happen, then we will have to think again about whether this European Union is right for us."

European Court of Human Rights

He said he also wants to change Britain's relationship with the European Court of Human Rights because some people were "frustrated by some legal judgments made in Europe that impact on life in Britain."

Cameron said he will scrap the country's Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

"We will enshrine in our domestic law that the EU Charter of fundamental rights does not create any new rights," he said.

"We will make it explicit to our courts that they cannot use the EU Charter as the basis for any new legal challenge citing spurious new human rights grounds," Cameron said.

The Times on Monday said Cameron could hold the referendum in June if other EU leaders "agree to the bulk of his reform package" at a summit next month.

Recent polls have suggested a roughly even split among voters, with around 20 per cent undecided.

Read more on:    eu  |  donald tusk  |  david cameron  |  uk

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