George Osborne to tour key capitals in EU reform drive
George Osborne is to take centre stage in the drive to reform the EU as he kicks off a tour of key capitals.
The Chancellor is travelling to Paris for two days of intensive diplomacy as the Government bids to renegotiate Britain's membership terms ahead of the in-out referendum.
In meetings with French counterparts including finance minister Michel Sapin and foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Mr Osborne is expected to recognise that the process will not be easy.
But he will argue that the impending vote in the UK is an "opportunity" to bring in changes to make Europe more "competitive and dynamic".
The trip - the first of a series Mr Osborne intends to make to EU capitals over the next six months - is intended to build on the whirlwind tour David Cameron conducted in the aftermath of the Tory general election victory.
EU leaders have ordered officials to start technical discussions on what kind of reforms can be made to accommodate Britain - but the Prime Minister has signalled he will not seek to undermine the principle of free movement within the union.
In Paris, the Chancellor will set out four main pillars of the Government's approach - sovereignty, fairness, competitiveness and immigration.
But he will insist he has a "positive vision" for the UK's future within the EU.
He will also reiterate the strength of Anglo-French ties, launching a new joint taskforce to boost Europe's digital economy.
"We have been returned to office with a very clear mandate to improve Britain's relationship with the rest of the EU and to reform the EU," Mr Osborne is expected to say.
"The referendum here in Britain is an opportunity to make the case for reform across the EU.
"I want to see a new settlement for Europe: one that makes it a more competitive and dynamic continent to ensure it delivers prosperity and security for all of the people within it, not just for those in Britain.
"While the process of renegotiation will not be easy, it's a key part of this Government's long term economic plan. This Government wants the UK to play a leading role within a reformed EU."