Cameron Cites Goodwill on EU Changes After Merkel Meeting

  • Prime minister appeals to Germany to help keep Britain in EU
  • Trip to Bavarian Alps precedes European summit in February

Prime Minister David Cameron voiced confidence that he’ll achieve a European Union reform plan to put to U.K. voters and said he had an “excellent meeting” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel as EU nations weigh Britain’s demands.

“We believe that all these issues can be dealt with,” Cameron told reporters Thursday during a stopover in the Bavarian Alps, where he and Merkel met the previous evening.

“The discussions are going well,” Cameron said. “They are hard, they are tough, there are difficult issues. But I’m confident, with goodwill -- and there is goodwill -- I think on all sides we can bring these negotiations to a conclusion and then hold the referendum.”

As he seeks to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, Cameron took his case to Germany before an in-or-out referendum that may be held this year. The changes sought by Britain to cut bureaucracy and trade barriers, differentiate between rules for countries inside and outside the euro area and to limit benefits for immigrants will be good for Germany and the rest of the EU, Cameron said in an op-ed article in Bild, Germany’s most-read newspaper, on Thursday.

“I am negotiating changes which will address the concerns of the British people. But these changes will benefit the EU too, and Germany can help deliver them,” Cameron wrote. The reforms “would make a big difference in persuading the British people to vote to remain in the EU.”

Cameron said he was warmly received at the retreat of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian ruling party that’s the smallest member of Merkel’s governing coalition and is pressing the chancellor to abandon her open-door policy toward refugees entering Germany. Merkel, who made no public comment after meeting Cameron, has said she’s ready to discuss the U.K. demands while maintaining EU principles such as free movement and equal treatment of EU citizens throughout the bloc.

“Britain supports the concept of free movement,” Cameron said in the Bavarian spa town of Kreuth. “But we want to make sure that welfare systems, particularly our welfare system, is not an unnatural draw to Britain. We do feel the pressure of excessive migration that we have had in recent years.”

On the euro, the prime minister said that while Britain wants the shared currency to be a success, he wants to ensure “that we’re not called upon to support the euro zone financially.”

Britain’s renegotiation has dominated Cameron’s diplomatic agenda since he was re-elected in May. He has pledged to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 and said Tuesday that he hopes to seal a deal with other leaders at a European summit in February. That would allow a vote to take place as early as June.

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