EU is too busy for Cameron’s reforms

The EU is too busy tackling eurozone economies to help David Cameron claw back powers from Brussels, the French premier said last night, reports

Mr Cameron has promised tough negotiations to bring about an overhaul of EU rules on free movement, which he says allow thousands of migrants to come here to claim benefits.

But Manuel Valls, the socialist prime minister of France, said in London that the union is too preoccupied with tackling weak growth and high unemployment to overhaul its treaties and change the terms of Britain’s EU membership.

After talks with Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, he said that opening up the EU treaties would be ‘perilous’ and unpicking the right of free movement of people would be ‘to call into question the very basis of the EU’.

Mr Cameron has pledged to change the rules on free movement ahead of an in/out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.

Only last week he told the Conservative party conference: ‘I know you want this sorted so I will go to Brussels. I will not take “no” for an answer when it comes to free movement – I will get what Britain needs.’

Mr Valls, a former interior minister, suggested he was prepared to discuss the conditions for migrants settling in other countries and reducing red tape.

But, speaking to journalists after meeting financiers in the City of London, he added: ‘I don’t think the EU at the moment is ready for a shake-up of its treaties and institutions. The priority is jobs and growth.’