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More talks for PM in EU reform bid


David Cameron is lobbying more European leaders over reform plans

David Cameron is lobbying more European leaders over reform plans

David Cameron is lobbying more European leaders over reform plans

David Cameron will continue his diplomatic dash around Europe with talks in Italy and Luxembourg to bolster support for his EU reform bid.

The P rime Minister is meeting Matteo Renzi in Milan, then flying to Luxembourg for a working dinner with Xavier Bettel as he lobbies leaders over the renegotiation plans.

Mr Cameron believes treaty reform is required in order to deliver significant change in Brussels and is aiming to speak with all of the 27 other EU leaders ahead of next week's European Council summit.

Italy has already joined rank s with the UK in pushing for reforms to boost EU competitiveness and cut red tape, and Mr Renzi shares Mr Cameron's concerns over the slow pace of negotiations on a proposed EU/US free trade deal.

But there may be friction over the issue of migration, as the UK has refused to take a proposed quota of the migrants arriving in the country after making the perilous Mediterranean crossing from north Africa in ramshackle boats.

With further trips to Slovenia and Slovakia, as well as meetings in London with Irish Taioseach Enda Kenny and European Parliament president Martin Schulz, Downing Street expects the Prime Minister to have spoken to more than 20 leaders by the end of the week.

Britain's demand for renegotiation of the terms of its EU membership is on the agenda for the Brussels summit, although the meeting is likely to be dominated by the Greek economic crisis.

Mr Cameron's one-day visit means he will be away for Prime Minister's questions, leaving Chancellor George Osborne to fill the breach for the first time.

Conservative backbenchers inflicted a glancing blow on the Government last night in a crunch Commons vote on EU referendum plans.

Former Cabinet ministers were among 27 Tory rebels - including two tellers - who went against the Government over its controversial plans to drop purdah rules for the campaign.

The scale of the rebellion was enough to have led to an embarrassing drubbing for the premier, but Labour's decision to abstain on the vote helped the Government secure a comfortable victory of 288 to 97.

Eurosceptics had tabled amendments to the EU Referendum Bill to have the standard 28-day purdah restrictions laid down by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 reinstated.

Downing Street argued that such a move would cause problems because of the volume of day-to-day government business that involves the EU, and the need for the Prime Minister to make Commons statements on European issues.

Former defence secretary Liam Fox, former environment secretary Owen Paterson and three former Welsh secretaries, David Jones, Cheryl Gillan and John Redwood, were among the rebels.

Ahead of the vote, Europe minister David Lidington stressed he was ready to "engage" with those who had strong feelings on the issue and bring forward amendments to the legislation at a later date.

But he reiterated that it would be "unworkable and inappropriate" to impose the standard 28-day period in which Whitehall cannot get involved in debate.

Mr Cameron had already made one concession to restive backbenchers by dropping the idea of holding the referendum on the same day as elections in Scotland next May.

Ukip will today attempt to prove the economic case for Britain severing ties with Brussels by publishing a pamphlet outlining what it says are the key myths widely used by pro-EU campaigners.

The Truth About Trade Beyond The EU booklet will focus on access to the Single Market, exports, concerns over isolation of the UK, free movement and trade agreements.

Ukip international trade spokesman William Dartmouth said: "Too often the debate surrounding trade is clouded by misinformation and myths about leaving the EU when the simple truth is that as a sovereign nation we we would be able to negotiate and maintain our own lucrative trade agreements, and could continue to trade with EU member states but this time, acting in our own best interests."

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