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Juncker wants 'fair deal' for UK

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said he wants "a fair deal" for Britain on its demands for reform of the EU, but said he is ruling out "major treaty change" on the key issue of freedom of movement.

Mr Juncker said it was not yet clear what reforms the UK would request and it was possible that changes to policies could be implemented within the framework of the existing Lisbon Treaty.

David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's EU membership if the Conservatives win next week's General Election, before holding an in/out referendum in 2017.

The Prime Minister has yet to set out precise details of the changes he will demand, but he has made clear that restrictions on the rights of citizens of other EU countries to settle, work and claim benefits in the UK will be high on the agenda.

Speaking to reporters who accompanied him on a visit to Ukraine, Mr Juncker said: "I do exclude major treaty changes as far as the freedom of movement is concerned - but other points can be mentioned."

He added: "We need a fair deal for Britain, but it's up to Britain to put forward their proposals, their requests, their ideas.

"It's up to them to take initiatives and then we'll take them under examination in a very polite, friendly, objective way.

"I don't want Britain to leave the EU, but I don't want Britain to impose a European agenda which would not be shared by others."

Mr Juncker said he believed there was "room for finding space between what I think Britain will propose and what I think about the European reaction about that".

But he added: "As long as we don't have crystal clear British views on all the items they want to be part of the negotiation, it is senseless to add to that debate."

He denied reports that he had privately ruled out any changes to the EU's treaties before his first term as president expires in 2019.

But he made clear that he did not envisage significant revision of treaties, after the seven-year process that led to Lisbon in 2007.

Asked whether treaty change was possible, he said: "It depends on Britain and it depends on the member countries. I am not asking for treaty changes and I do exclude major treaty changes as far as the freedom of movement is concerned - but other points can be mentioned.

"There are policy changes which are possible under existing treaties... If you want to change the policy, you don't necessarily have to change the treaty. A government can act without changing the constitution."


From Belfast Telegraph