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Statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen: ”Welcome – and welcome of course David to Borgen. It is a pleasure to have you here. I just had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, where we discussed the negotiations on the British relationship with the EU among other topics. We look eye to eye on most topics, we have very good bilateral relationships; we receive a lot of Brits in Copenhagen these days, and in terms of the EU questions, the Danish position is very clear. We want the UK to remain in the European Union; we need a strong, British voice in Europe, a voice of common sense. The UK is a close allied of Denmark and we share many common interests. And I find the package, presented by the President of the European Union, Mr. Tusk, to be a good basis for the negotiations in the coming days and weeks. It contains many elements which Denmark strongly supports and which we will work hard to retain.
First of all, I support all the elements on access to welfare benefits. In particular, I welcome the proposal to index child benefits for children living in other member states. There is also some very useful language regarding the right of member states to define the fundamental principles of their social security system. If this is agreed – which I hope – we will have created an excellent basis for future discussions of the development of the EU rules in this regard. And these elements will benefit Denmark as well as all other member states, not just the United Kingdom. It creates momentum towards the goal of ensuring that the European Union does not develop into a social union. We need to ensure that EU citizens move across borders to work, not to seek high level of benefits. We must be able to protect our national welfare system.
The package also contains an emergency brake, which is specifically designed to handle the particular problems faced by the UK regarding in-work benefits, and that is perfectly understandable and acceptable to us in Denmark.
I also welcome the proposals on the relationship between the Euro and the non-Euro countries. They are a big step in the right direction, the legitimate interest of non-Euro countries must be taken probably into consideration. And finally, I also welcome the proposal on a stronger role for the national parliaments and on competitiveness. We need to deepen the single market, we need to cut down on red tape to help our small and medium-sized businesses and we need to prioritize free trade agreements. This have long been key priorities for Denmark as well as for the UK. And then, finally, a word about the legal model, proposed by President Tusk. It is very well known to Denmark. We got a similar agreement more than twenty years ago, with the so-called Edinburgh Agreement. It has served Danish interests well for more than two decades. It has certainly stood the test of time. So Denmark will work hard, as you know, to ensure a result, which can help the British government win the coming referendum and remain a key member of the European Union.
Premierminister David Cameron: Well, thank you very much Lars. It is very good to be here in Copenhagen with you. We have a very good relationship, a very good friendship and our discussions have focused on three issues: on our bilateral relations, on EU reform and on the migration crisis. And I just want to say a few words on each. Our bilateral relationship is particularly close; we are firm NATO Allies, indeed H M Ramsey is taking part in a NATO exercise here right now. We also cooperate closely on counter-terrorism in the fight against Daesh, and I saw for myself the bravery of Danish soldiers, as our two countries served alongside each other in very close quarters in Afghanistan. Trade in both directions between our two countries is worth 6 billion pounds a year, and over 600.000 Brits visit Denmark annually. We work very closely together in the EU, and again, as you just heard, with a very similar outlook. We share a lot in common, proud nations, but outward looking. On the EU reform, as you know, I am working hard to secure a form in four areas, economic governance, sovereignty, competitiveness, and welfare. And on welfare, let me explain why the British people have concerns what I am trying to fix. I support the principle of free movement and I greatly value the contribution that many make when they come to Britain. But the challenge that we have identified is the scale of movement we have seen across Europe to Britain over the last decades and the pressure that is put on public services. But these are problems that we can share. For example, I know, as we’ve just heard, that in Denmark you have concerns about paying child benefit for children not living here, and that is why the reforms, I am seeking can benefit other countries too. I have now secured a commitment from the Commission to address this. So, the text, the Council has put forward shows real progress in all four areas including on protecting of the legitimate interest of non-Euro member states, which of course is so important to Denmark too. As Lars has just said, this deal must be legally binding, the Danish model, negotiated in 1992, has set a powerful precedent for that. As the Prime Minister just said, over twenty years later, it still stands. But as I have said, there are still important details to be nailed down, if we are going to get a deep deal in February. And that’s why the hard work continues.
We have also discussed the Syria Donors Conference that I hosted yesterday with others in London, and I want to thank your Prime Minister and the Danish people for the very generous pledge that you made. I am proud to say that we brought together world-leaders; we raised record funds and identified crucial long-term existence through the creation of jobs and crucially the perishing of school places for refugee children. This will give those in desperate need real hope for the future. But it should only be the beginning. The more we do to create the opportunity for people to stay in the region, the less likely we are to see them making the treacherous journey to Europe, a journey that has sadly resulted in so many deaths. So, we had good discussions here today, and I want to thank you, Lars, again for giving me such a warm welcome. Thank you.
Statsministeren: Thank you. Then we are prepared to questions. Ask!
Spørger: Mr. Cameron, if every EU member country would aim to get a special exemptions or a agreement with the EU, would there be anything left, worthy of the title union, and secondly, if I may, as the Danish Prime Minister pointed out, there are parts of the deal you are heading towards, specifically designed to the wants and needs of Britain – would you actively support other countries, for instance Denmark in getting similar deals on restricting access for EU migrant workers to public welfare benefits?
Premierministeren: I believe that the sort of Europe I believe in has got to be flexible enough to deal with the concerns of countries, large and small, so I would actually answer your question in two ways. First of all I would say yes, Britain does have issues that we want to get resolved in the EU, just as twenty years ago Denmark did, and Denmark successfully negotiated that protocol in Edinburgh, which has lasted the test of time, but the second thing I would say is that so many of the things that we have put on the table, whether it is more competitiveness, cutting bureaucracy, making sure that Europe is fair to currencies that are not the Euro; these are of interest to other countries including Denmark, so I think this package of measures, if we can finish it, if we can finalize it, if we can agree the detail on it, it were possible we can improve it, it will be good for Britain, but also good for other European countries too.
I think we’ve got James Mates from ITV.
Spørger: Prime Minister, how much pressure were you under in Poland this morning to give yet more ground on this issue on micro-benefits? Should the British people expect further compromise, or have you given as much as you are going to give? And if I may, could I just ask Prime Minister Rasmussen: Do you expect, that when the talking starts in Brussels, that the Prime Minister will have to give more ground over and above the deal he has done?
Premierministeren: Well, I had a very good meetings this morning in Poland, and I am confident that that will help us to build a strong deal in February. But, of course, I have said that I will take all the time that I need to get the deal right for people in Britain. The things that I have said are absolutely crucial, either we end the idea of something for nothing that people can come to Britain and get instant access to our in-work welfare system – that’s got to change and that will change. And I have also said that there should be a four-year period and that is very important, so I think we’ve made important progress, no more something for nothing. A four-year period, real change in the direction that the British people want to see and a good meeting in Poland this morning.
Statsministeren: And then you asked me about my expectations. My perspective is that we need this agreement, and I think that the paper proposed is a solid answer to what we need and I definitely do not hope that we need any amendments. We need, on certain areas, clarification, but we don’t need amendments, and I do not expect amendments and I will be as supportive as possible for many good reasons, first of all to give the British government a basis for this referendum. This is, I guess, in British interest, but also in Danish interest, but also, because as David said, and I have said earlier as well, there is something in this package for everybody. Things that we have been working hard to achieve, for instance the Metock ruling. We have advocated for bringing the legal situation back to what was the case before that ruling and that is in the paper, and I could give other examples, so you will find Denmark being a very supportive country in the negotiations.
Spørger: I would like to ask Mr. Cameron. How would you rate yourself as a European leader, if this fails, if the British people vote no to the referendum?
Premierministeren: Well, it is for other people to give leaders a rating. I don’t believe in marking your own homework, neither at school nor in politics. But what I would say, what I have achieved in recent years in Europe, working with colleagues like Lars, is many people say, you will never reduce the size of the European budget, it only ever goes up. But we have cut the size of the European budget. People said to me: you will never achieve a measure of saying that we need more national determination of welfare; people should wait for getting access to the welfare systems. I was told that was impossible – we are well on the way to achieving that. People said that you will never get the European Commission to sign the targets to cut the level of bureaucracy - well, we are well on the way to achieving that, so whether it is cutting the European budget, whether it is getting a focus on competitiveness, whether it is achieving these vital goals on welfare, or indeed this very good agreement on an ever closer union. For years, people have said, this organization only goes in one direction, power goes towards Brussels, it doesn’t go back to the nation state. Well, if you look at what is being proposed on an ever closer union, it says that this expression cannot be used for more powers for European institutions or the European Court, so I think it is a very strong track record of building a Europe that is flexible, that recognizes the important role of nation states, but is also capable of getting things done. And I would point to some of the good things that have happened in Europe in recent years, very much lead by countries like Britain and Denmark working together getting tough sanctions on Russia. That was very much on a British initiative. Getting tough sanctions on Iran that brought Iran to the negotiating table and meant the end of the nuclear weapons program; that again was an initiative lead by countries like Britain and Denmark, so there is a positive agenda that we can achieve in Europe and that I have helped to achieve in Europe, but I am also building a Europe that is more flexible and more respectful of nation states and that is able to contain both those countries that want to be part of the Euro zone and want to integrate more, and those countries like Britain, that want a more flexible Europe. I think that is a good basis, and I wish to go forward and ask the British people to stay in a reformed European Union, but only, if we can achieve these very important negotiations in the coming weeks.
And then I’ve got Rowena Mason from the Guardian.
Spørger: Martin Schultz said that the deal is reversible. How are you going to the get the British people to vote for something that can be dismantled once they’ve voted to stay in, and secondly, if I may, you promised an outright ban on in-work benefits for four years for a new EU arrivals and have accepted gradual withdrawal, and you promised to end transporting child benefits to EU countries abroad and got a deal to have them index linked. Why have you accepted a watered-down version of your original proposals that figures in both in and out campaigns have said are completely inconsequential.
Premierministeren: Well, first of all let’s take what Martin Schultz has said. If we agree on 18 February on the package put forward by Donald Tusk with all the changes and details nailed down, if it is agreed, it will be agreed as a legally binding treaty, deposited at the United Nations. It would only be reversible if all 28 countries including Britain agree to reverse it. Given it is the treaty that Britain wants; there is no way that we are going to agree to reverse it. So while you can argue that it is technically reversible, if we agreed to reverse it, it is not in fact reversible. So we will be legally binding and irreversible exactly as I said. Now, when I started out on this negotiation, people said to me you will never get a four year restriction on welfare benefits. Indeed, you will not get any restriction on welfare benefits. This is not possible. And yet, what we have is a restriction of benefits for four years. You will not get under these proposals full access to the UK in-work benefit system until four years, and that, I think, is a very big step forward. I understand for the people, only a few months ago, were saying was not possible. I am not arguing that this package that we are discussing will solve all of Europe’s problems; Europe will still have many imperfections, many problems after this negotiation is finished. I am not even saying that this will solve all the problems of Britain or countries like Denmark and the concerns we sometimes have with Europe of all sorts of things, but if you ask people in Britain what it is that concerns you about Europe, most people would say it is too bureaucratic, it passes too many rules, it doesn’t have enough fairness between those countries in the Euro-zone and those out of the Euro-zone It is too much of a political union with ambition to become a closer political union, and not enough is done to help countries to control their own migration and their own welfare. Each of those issues is addressed in this negotiation, and when you look at what people actually think of those individual issues, you can see that we are making progress on the things that people care about, things that I care about, so when we hold that referendum, we are giving people a real choice. Not a choice between staying in the EU as it is now, or leaving, but a choice between staying in on the basis of these changes that we are going to set out and hopefully achieve in February, or deciding to leave with all the potential risks and difficulties that might involve. So I think good work has been done, there is still two weeks to go, I still need all 28 countries to agree to the changes, there are still important details to be filled in and work to be done on this negotiation, but I think that if you look on what we are actually achieving in the areas of things people care about, that is what we promised in our manifesto and that is what we are going to do.
Statsministeren: Well, thank you. I think that will conclude our press conference. I will just want to echo what David said here. I truly believe that adopting this package will create a better Europe and of course I will not intervene in a British referendum, but I definitely hope that Britain will decide to stay within Europe, also for the reason that this package will only come into force if Britain vote yes and for that reason I have an additional reason to hope that you will achieve what goal you have targeted. Thank you so much.”