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David Cameron opts out of EU deal on migrants

By Andrew Woodcock

Published 27/06/2015

Britain will not take any of the 40,000 migrants due to be relocated from Italy and Greece under the terms of a deal thrashed out at the European Council in Brussels.

Prime Minister David Cameron made clear in a fractious meeting on Thursday night that the UK will not take part in the process which will see asylum-seekers who have crossed the Mediterranean by boat dispersed around Europe over the next two years.

But Britain is expected to receive a total of around 800 Syrian refugees over three years under an existing resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable in camps close to the war-torn country.

Disputes over the migrants have dominated a European Council summit at which Mr Cameron also secured agreement to kick off the formal renegotiation process which will pave the way for an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by the end of 2017.

Mr Cameron said he was "delighted" by the outcome, but British sources confirmed that there was only brief discussion of the issue during a break in the migration debate.

The Prime Minister, who had spoken directly to all his 27 EU counterparts ahead of the meeting, spoke for only around five minutes, after which council president Donald Tusk confirmed that talks between UK and EU officials would begin shortly, with national leaders returning to the subject at a summit in December.

The European Council president warned: "One thing should be clear from the very beginning. The fundamental values of the EU are not for sale and so are non-negotiable. We should consider British concerns, but only in a way which will be safe for all Europe."

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