Britain's Cameron fails to get backing on EU welfare reforms

AP News
Posted: Jan 22, 2016 11:20 AM
Britain's Cameron fails to get backing on EU welfare reforms

PRAGUE (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday he was confident that his country would be able to reach a deal with the European Union on his government's demands for EU reforms.

But in a meeting Friday in Prague with Czech counterpart Bohuslav Sobotka, Cameron didn't find a common ground on the trickiest issue, changes in the welfare system he has requested.

Cameron has committed to holding a referendum on Britain's EU membership by the end of 2017. Before that, he is seeking a new deal for Britain, most controversially welfare limits for other EU nationals that aim to control migration into Britain and keep Britain within the 28-nation bloc.

Some EU nations, including new EU members from Central Europe such as the Czech Republic, see that as violating the fundamental principle of free movement among the bloc's member states.

"My proposal remains on the table," Cameron said about his most contentious goal to bar migrants from other EU countries from receiving some British government benefits until they have been in Britain for up to four years.

Cameron insisted he was not against the principle of free movement of people but he said the major challenge for his country is "the scale of the vast movement of people we've seen across Europe over the last decade" and the pressure it puts on the public services.

"I am confident that with the help of European partners, with good will we will be able to get there and fine genuinely, mutually satisfactory conclusions," he said.

Sobotka said his government will do all it can to keep Britain in Europe but acknowledged "the negotiations won't be easy." He said the Czechs would support only a deal which is not "discriminatory" and "on condition it won't limit free movement of workforce."

Only about 35,000 Czechs currently work in Britain, a much smaller number that workers from other Central European post-Communist countries such as Poland or Hungary.

During the talks, Cameron said he would possibly reconsider British objections to a planned sale of Czech light combat and training planes to Iraq.

Cameron also honored 2,500 Czechoslovakians who fought against Nazi Germany in Britain's air force at a wreath-laying ceremony at their memorial.