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Kenny vows backing to PM on EU bid

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised David Cameron that he will be as "supportive and constructive" as possible in his bid to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership of the European Union.

Following talks in Downing Street, Mr Kenny said that it was in the interests of Ireland and of Europe that Britain remained a "leading player" in the EU.

He said that he wanted to see Mr Cameron's promised in/out referendum once the renegotiation is complete result in a "yes" vote for the country to stay in.

"We want that to be a referendum that can be carried. It is critically important that Britain stays a central and leading player in the European Union of the future," he said.

"In that we will be as supportive and as constructive as we can. It doesn't mean we will follow you blindly on every issue.

"But insofar as the process is concerned I want to see that leading to a decision by the British people to stay in European Union because that is where the future for everybody lies."

Mr Kenny's backing was warmly welcomed by Mr Cameron who has had a distinctly mixed response in his attempts to build support for his renegotiation plan among fellow EU leaders.

The Prime Minister has been touring European capitals to explain his thinking ahead of next week's Brussels summit when it is expected to be on the formal agenda for the first time.

"I would say overall that I am getting a good response. This is going to take time, it is a complicated process, as I've said before there will be ups and downs," he said.

"What I'm driven by is the British national interest, getting this right for Britain, getting this right for Europe."

But with other EU leaders largely pre-occupied with the Greek debt crisis, he acknowledged that there may be limited scope for progress at next week's meeting.

"I wouldn't say that there is going to be any one particular date that is crucial but obviously the forthcoming European Council is an opportunity to get this process under way," he said.

Earlier the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, who met Mr Cameron for talks over breakfast in Downing Street, warned the Prime Minister he would have to be prepared to compromise on his demands if he wanted an agreement.

"Dialogue is necessary. Solutions are always coming via dialogue and at the end via compromise," he said.

Meanwhile senior Tory Eurosceptics were seeking to keep up the pressure on Mr Cameron insisting he must keep to his promise of "fundamental change" in Britain's relationship with the EU.

John Redwood, Sir Bill Cash and Bernard Jenkin launched a pamphlet arguing that his commitment could only be fulfilled by restoring Britain's national democracy and the "right of the British people to decide our own law in our own country".

Mr Redwood said that the "bare minimum" for the renegotiation to succeed was that Mr Cameron returned to Britain the powers that were ceded to Brussels in the Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties.

Mr Jenkin dismissed the Prime Minister's proposals to curb the access of EU migrants to benefits saying they offered "zero hope" of achieving the Conservative manifesto commitment of getting net migration into the UK down to below 100,000-a-year.

"These irrelevancies are just distractions. They are throwing sand in our eyes," he said.

Steve Baker, who formed the backbench Conservatives for Britain group, said that around a fifth of the 110 MPs who had signed up to it believed that Mr Cameron was almost certain to fail to achieve an acceptable deal which they could support.

"Many of us expect to have an 'out' campaign, many of us expect to be in it but these things have to evolve," he said.

Mr Cameron meanwhile was heading off to Slovenia for talks with prime minister Miro Cerar, with further meetings tomorrow in Slovakia.

The PM and the Taoiseach talked for about an hour and a half, enjoying a working lunch of baked ricotta and grilled asparagus, sea bass and vegetables followed by lemon panna cotta with strawberries.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said Mr Cameron "talked the Taoiseach through the areas where he wanted to address the UK's concerns" on Europe.

"The Taoiseach welcomed the PM's approach, the fact that he is seeking to engage with everyone personally, and said that he wanted Ireland to be as supportive as it could be," the spokeswoman said.

"He talked about the fact that quite a lot of what the UK was putting on the table would benefit the whole of the EU, particularly on the issues around competitiveness and reform."

The two leaders also discussed the Mediterranean crisis and agreed there should be more work to "deal with the problem at source" and examine what the EU could do to bring about a stable government in Libya.

A cross-party committee has been formed to consider how the referendum campaign to leave the EU could be run.

The group includes Tory former cabinet minister Owen Paterson, fellow Conservatives Bernard Jenkin and Steve Baker, Labour's Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer, and Ukip's Douglas Carswell.

In a statement the group said: " T he referendum will be a historic turning point. Both sides will require the creation of substantial organisations to provide voters with a real choice."

The committee will look at legal issues arising from the legislation for the referendum, including the decision to scrap purdah arrangements, questions over the "impartiality of EU and government institutions and broadcasters" and the funding limits for the participants.

It will also consider "how an out campaign might best be formed and run to inform the public about the issues".

The group said: " This is not the out campaign, but we are seeking urgently to provide resources for crucial thinking and to promote co-operation amongst those who might contribute to an out campaign."


From Belfast Telegraph