British Prime Minister David Cameron is appealing to fellow European Union leaders for a “live and let live” relationship that he says will keep Britain in the EU.
Cameron and the 27 other EU leaders are holding a two-day summit in Brussels focused on Europe’s refugee crisis and talks to keep Britain from leaving the bloc.
“The question of Britain’s place in Europe has been allowed to fester too long, and it is time to deal with it,” Cameron said Thursday. “If we can reach agreement here that is strong enough to persuade the British people to support the UK’s membership of the EU, then we have an opportunity to settle this issue for a generation.”
Cameron’s “live and let live” creed would give Britain and other members the flexibility to govern at home in such a way that their interests as part of the EU would still be protected.
The prime minister is looking for what he says is a “credible” deal that can withstand a possible referendum later this year.
Many British politicians, especially the Conservatives, want to pull Britain out of the EU, mainly for economic reasons, but also because of immigration and EU laws they say trump British law.
While no EU leader wants to see Britain drop out of the bloc, some say they are expecting tough negotiations on Cameron’s key demands, including welfare restrictions to curb immigration and Britain’s exclusion from having to work toward a closer union with its European partners.
Irish Prime Minister Edna Kenny expressed sympathy for her British colleague Thursday, saying Cameron has “half his Cabinet against him” and “half his party against him” and needs a deal he can sell to the British people.
Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite predicted the summit would end on a positive note, saying “everybody will have his own drama, and then we will agree.”
(Photo: European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and UK prime minister David Cameron: EC Audiovisual Service)