David Cameron will address European leaders in Brussels today as he aims to begin formal talks on renegotiating Britain’s relationship with the EU.
The Prime Minister wants his speech at the European Council summit to be a precursor to official discussions about reforming the UK’s membership, ahead of a promised in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
An official schedule released in Brussels made clear that the UK’s demands will not be discussed in either of the working sessions of the two-day summit.
Instead, Mr Cameron will deliver his speech during a dinner with leaders of the 28-nation bloc tonight.
The summit is likely to be overshadowed by ongoing negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the Greek debt crisis, and the surge of migrants who are arriving in Europe across the Mediterranean.
The PM is yet to provide a conclusive list of the reforms he is seeking for Britain’s relationship with Europe.
But his priorities include stopping EU migrants from being able to claim benefits during their first four years in the UK, and new powers to deport those who fail to find work within six months.
Mr Cameron has indicated that treaty change would be required to achieve these reforms.
Speaking before his departure for Brussels, Mr Cameron said his speech presents an opportunity to “kick off a process to work through the substance and to find solutions”.
“It will take us another step closer to addressing the concerns that the British people have about the EU,” Mr Cameron added.
“And closer to changing the status quo for the better and then giving the British people a say on whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU.”Some of his counterparts have already expressed their opposition to treaty change, with one French minister suggesting that reforming freedom of movement rules is problematic because the principle is part of the “European DNA”.