Cameron to use political capital to press EU demands

British PM moves fast to open talks with EU leaders on UK membership terms

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and British prime minister David Cameron at Chequers in southern England on Monday. Photograph: EPA/Suzanne Plunkett

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and British prime minister David Cameron at Chequers in southern England on Monday. Photograph: EPA/Suzanne Plunkett

 

British prime minister David Cameron is to have meetings with fellow European Union leaders in a bid to open talks on his demands for new membership terms for the UK.

Mr Cameron began his week of engagements with a dinner at Chequers for the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who made some positive noises after the British leader’s election victory. Later this week, Mr Cameron will hold talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president François Hollande, along with his Danish and Polish counterparts.

Relations between Mr Cameron and Mr Juncker could be critical in the months ahead. Ties have been strained by the efforts Mr Cameron made to block the former Luxembourg prime minister from getting the top Brussels job.

Speaking before the meeting, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said: “It is an opportunity for the PM to underline why he is doing this, and the views of Britain about the EU, the case for renegotiation and not sticking with the status quo.”

Opening moves

His contact with his Danish counterpart, prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, is an indication of London’s desire to get backing for EU single market and welfare reforms from northern European member states.

However, the decision to meet so soon with Poland’s prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, illustrates the difficulties London faces in its demand for curbs to the tax credits given to low-paid workers in the UK.

Mr Cameron has valued the credits as being worth up to £10,000 to a foreign worker with children, though Poland and other eastern European countries have voiced opposition to discrimination against their nationals in the UK.

Voting rights

British citizens, Irish and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK, and Gibraltarians and Maltese living in the UK, will be entitled to vote, but not citizens from other EU states living in the UK.

The Scottish government’s SNP minister for Europe, Humza Yousaf, said the restrictions were “utterly perverse”, especially as citizens from several countries outside Europe will be eligible to vote.

“EU citizens are the ones likely to feel the impact of a UK exit from the European Union the hardest, so to disenfranchise the vast bulk of them is wrong. To exclude EU citizens from voting, many of whom have been in the UK for years, who contribute to our economy through their taxes, and whose children are being brought up here, is thoroughly undemocratic,” he said.