EU renegotiation: Cameron warns of knock-backs and rows
David Cameron has begun first chats in Riga about Britain’s renegotiation with a warning that it won’t be easy and there will be knock-backs, rows or “noise”.
His first proper, full-on bi-laterals, the beginning of real negotiations, come at the end of next week when he goes to Paris and Berlin. There are signs that both capitals are willing to consider post-dated treaty change, which would remove the worry for France and others that treaty change comes any time soon. Quite what the change would be, post-dated or otherwise, is a trickier issue.
When David Cameron, at the last minute, dropped all reference to immigration quotas or emergency brakes from his November 2014 speech, he dropped one of the most challenging policy proposals he could have dreamt up. He was warned at the time by Chancellor Merkel and others that it would never fly and offended the principle of free movement.
But the benefit restrictions for EU workers in Britain is a pretty big headache all on its own. EU ambassadors talk of it ripping up the principle of equal treatment for EU workers. David Cameron’s first conversation was with the Polish prime minister and it’s hard to imagine that didn’t come up.
David Cameron plans to remind EU leaders he meets today that nearly 4 million British voters backed Ukip. He thinks some EU countries under-estimate the British desire to move from the status quo in Europe.
Last night the leaders, Philip Hammond standing in for the PM, who arrived later, discussed the main substance of this meeting: the east and Russia. The EU flirted with offering the six former Soviet Union countries all sorts of tantalising routes to a closer relationship with he EU if not eventual membership.
After what happened in Ukraine, triggered by the last of these eastern partnership meetings in 2013, they’re now not so keen. Russia was much discussed at the leaders’ dinner last night but few here want to provoke President Putin right now.
At the old KGB headquarters in Riga there was a model of President Putin nailed to this cross until a couple of days ago. Visitors were encouraged to bang in a nail. No one seems to know who said it should come down but this is all that’s left now.
Cell at the former KGB HQ in Riga
Interrogation room and cells at old KGB HQ in Riga
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