Exhausted David Cameron back at Brussels summit after late night ‘hammering’ over UK’s migrant benefits plea

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2F7B2DEF00000578-3364993-image-a-8_1450436860856Bangla Sanglap Desk:David Cameron is back in talks with EU leaders today hours after facing claims he will only win ‘minor concessions’ to his demands for Britain’s new membership.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the Prime Minister got hammered at a late night dinner in Brussels despite the Prime Minister’s claim he now has a path to a deal by the next summit on February 18.

Mr Cameron held a hastily arranged 11pm press conference to insist he had secured a ‘big step to a better deal for Britain’. Today’s talks are also set to feature discussion of the wider migrant crisis in Europe.

Mr Cameron’s proposal to ban new migrants to Britain from claiming benefits for four years is effectively dead after European Council president Donald Tusk said there could be no discrimination within Europe’s free movement rules.

Mr Tusk said the EU leaders had demonstrated a ‘willingness’ to make progress on Britain’s concerns but was joined by German chancellor Angela Merkel who promised to protect Europe’s key ‘pillars’.

In the aftermath of the talks, in which Mr Cameron made a 45 minute pitch to his fellow leaders, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has insisted Mr Cameron is still seeking legally binding, ‘irreversible’ changes to EU rules which would stop Britain’s benefits acting as a ‘magnet’ to migrants.

2F77493D00000578-3364993-image-m-6_1450392066552But Mr Farage tweeted: ‘David Cameron came, saw, and got hammered. How many times can his little plans be rejected?

‘Mr. Cameron was told to come back in February when I suspect he will probably get a few minor concessions.

‘Clearer now than ever that only way to control our borders, stop giving £55m every day to Brussels & make our own laws is to Leave the EU.’

Speaking at an unscheduled press conference after the talks broke up, Mr Cameron said: ‘I would say today what has happened is we have taken a big step to a better deal for Britain but there is still a lot of hard work to be done, and it is going to need to be done between now and February 18.

‘But there is a path through this to a better deal for Britain.’

Mr Fallon played down the prospects of creating an ’emergency brake’ on migration as a stop-gap way of resolving Mr Cameron’s demands.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We have got to find a way through this.

‘It has not got to be a short-term solution … it can’t be something that is simply cobbled together for a few months or a year or two.’

He added: ‘But Britain is deadly serious about reducing the pull, the attractiveness of our benefits system, so that we can start to reduce, rather than see migration increase.’

Countries in Eastern Europe led the charge in dismissing the Prime Minister’s ‘discriminatory’ proposals to stop EU workers accessing in-work benefits for the first four years after arriving in the UK.

Mr Cameron warned his fellow leaders that the UK had faced ‘unprecedented’ waves of migration, putting major ‘pressures’ on public services.

Aides said Mr Cameron was now willing to consider alternative proposals provided they help to curb mass migration – even though the benefits ban had been a Tory manifesto commitment.

Officials also said that the Prime Minister had not been seeking to reach a deal on the future terms of Britain’s EU membership at the dinner, but was instead hoping to build ‘political momentum’.

At best, they hope he will be in a position to secure a deal at the next EU council meeting in February. If he fails to do so, Downing Street’s hopes of a snap in/out referendum in June would be over.

Over the working dinner, the Prime Minister spelled out his four key demands – curbing migration, increasing competitiveness, freeing Britain from the EU’s commitment to ‘ever closer union’ and measures to stop the eurozone countries ganging up on non-members.

He said: ‘Countries need flexibility so they can make changes to their welfare systems to better manage migration. 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.’

But before the dinner even began, Mr Cameron was hit by a wall of hostility. On the way into the summit, other leaders lined up in front of the TV cameras to make it clear there would be no deal on benefits.

2F77593D00000578-3364993-image-a-23_1450392502949The leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia had released a joint statement criticising Mr Cameron’s proposals after meeting him ahead of the summit.

They said ‘we believe we can … reach a comprehensive agreement by February’, but added: ‘[We] consider the freedom of movement one of the fundamental values of the European Union.

‘Proposals regarding this area remain the most sensitive issue for us.

‘In this respect, we will not support any solutions which would be discriminatory or limit free movement.’

French president Francois Hollande said: ‘If it is legitimate to listen to the British Prime Minister, it is unacceptable to revise founding European commitments.’

Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, said Mr Cameron would be forced to drop key demands after ‘strong and frank’ talks, adding: ‘Cameron’s starting point will certainly not be the destination.’

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said about parts of Mr Cameron’s proposals: ‘We’re not in the same position.’

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said: ‘Cameron’s four-year benefit ban won’t get through.

‘It is not for the EU to accommodate Cameron but the other way around. It is not the EU that has called a referendum.’

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, said that Brussels bureaucrats were preparing to put a different deal on the table.

Britain’s deal to hand £275million to Turkey still on the table  – despite little evidence it has stemmed the flow of migrants heading to Europe

Britain last night said a deal to hand £275million to Turkey was still on the table despite little evidence it has stemmed the flow of migrants heading to Europe since it signed an agreement to do so.

David Cameron last month said he would stump up the vast sum of money as part of an EU deal that will see the country get £2.1billion to be spent on the two million refugees camped there.

But a report presented to leaders in Brussels yesterday showed there had only been a ‘slight reduction’ in the number of arrivals crossing the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands.

About 4,000 people have come every day since the deal was signed on 29 November, compared to 5,000 to 6,000 a day earlier in the month.

‘This decrease may, however, also be attributed to other factors,’ said the report written by the Luxembourg government, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council.

A separate report on the functioning of the EU-Turkey action plan agreed with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has concluded that migrant arrivals from Turkey were ‘practically unchanged’ in the two weeks after the signing.

A senior British government source last night said discussions over the aid money were still ongoing but added: ‘We think it’s right to be support of them [because of the number of refugees they are hosting]’.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz told EU leaders that it ‘should not be a problem’ for Europe to welcome millions of migrants.

The German socialist said: ‘If you look at the numbers of refugees in other countries in the wider region, for example Jordan, then the 28 EU states should be able to manage this problem of migratory movements towards Europe.

‘With 507 million people, that’s the population of the EU, you have one or two million refugees that can be distributed across the whole EU, that should not be a problem.

‘But if very few member states are prepared to actually do their part in managing this problem then that is a problem.’

Mr Davutoglu yesterday met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and some other leaders before the main summit to discuss a possible scheme to bring Syrian refugees directly from Turkey to Europe. Mr Cameron was not part of the talks.


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