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David Cameron, Angeal Merkel & EU Referendum so far

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville



Prime Minister David Cameron defended Britain's desire to protect its sovereignty on Friday, appealing for understanding from the European Union in his talks for better membership terms that could be decided next week.



At a dinner in German city of Hamburg with Chancellor Angela Merkel and civic and business leaders, Cameron said he knew some may see Britain as "argumentative and rather strong-minded" by trying to renegotiate its terms with the 28-member bloc.


But he underlined that he believed the reforms he was pursuing would help Germany and the rest of the EU, while he made "no apology" for Britain's need to protect its sovereignty - a possible signal to his more eurosceptic allies at home that he may yet find a way of securing the supremacy of parliament.


"We have the character of an island nation - independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty - and of institutions that have served us well for many hundreds of years," he told dozens of guests in the banquet room of Hamburg city hall.


"But we are also an open nation ... And I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat from the world."


Cameron reiterated that he wanted Britain to stay in a reformed European Union and was fighting hard to address the concerns of the British people before a summit on Feb. 18-19 where he hopes to clinch a deal with his EU peers.


British and EU negotiators say much of the reform package has been agreed, but Cameron will have to settle tricky final issues, such as on migration where the British leader hopes to be able to curb benefits for EU workers.


He must also convince many in his Conservative Party that a draft deal agreed with European Council leader Donald Tusk offers the fundamental change in relations that he has promised.


Many eurosceptics have described the draft deal as one which does little to bring back any meaningful powers from Brussels, and are poised to start campaigning to leave the EU before a referendum which could take place as early as in June.


But some of his allies suggest Cameron may have something else to offer to defuse the criticism.


He has suggested he would do more to assert the sovereignty of Britain's parliament within the European Union, a possible bid to keep some high profile sceptics, such as popular London Mayor Boris Johnson, on board.

Cameron told the dinner he hoped to secure safeguards for countries outside the 19-member euro zone and an understanding that "we should be able to run our own welfare systems".


"So if by working together we can achieve these changes, then I will unequivocally recommend that Britain stays in a reformed European Union on these new terms," he said, adding his oft-repeated mantra; "Of course, if we can't then I rule nothing out."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday she is becoming more confident a deal to keep Britain in the European Union will be reached, but she warned more compromises may be needed on both sides.

Speaking at an event in Hamburg attended by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Merkel said issues such as changes to social security systems needed to be placed in a European context, not only a British concern.

"The way the talks have progressed so far are putting me in a confident mood," she said. However, she said she did not know how long negotiations would last.



Cameron has said he hopes to come to an agreement with EU leaders over his plans to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the bloc at an EU summit on Feb. 18-19, paving the way for a British referendum on EU membership this summer.

British and EU negotiators agreed much of a reform package on Thursday, leaving Prime Minister Cameron to settle tricky final issues, notably on migration, at a summit next week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a speech during the traditional historic banquet ''Matthiae-Mahlzeit'' (St. Matthew's Day Banquet) at the town hall in Hamburg February 12, 2016. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen


"Europe needs Great Britain and Great Britain needs Europe," Merkel said in Hamburg, repeating her previous support for continued British membership. The EU's "ability to compromise" will be needed by all to resolve the package of changes Britain is seeking, she said.

"I wish that the United Kingdom will in the future too remain an active member of a successful European Union," she said. That would be in both British and German interests, she said.

Some concerns that Cameron had raised were "not only reasonable, but also supported by us (Germany)," Merkel said, including competitiveness, transparency and reduction of bureaucracy.

Every member state should also be in the position to "maintain the strength" of its social security system, she said.

Such issues were not only British, she said.


"Quite the opposite, when we can succeed in pouring these issues into a European mould, I think that Europe as a whole will gain."

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