David Cameron’s hopes of a deal on a new relationship between the UK and the European Union still face a number of hurdles, his Irish counterpart has said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there were still “complications” in relation to the proposals, which will be considered at a crunch meeting of EU leaders in February.
But in a boost to Mr Cameron’s reform agenda, Mr Kenny said the problems were “solvable” and he hoped it was possible a deal could be done at the summit in Brussels.
In a joint press conference at Number 10, Mr Kenny said European Council president Donald Tusk would publish a paper next week on the UK’s four key areas of concern.
“I actually believe that all of these are solvable, in a really positive sense,” Mr Kenny said.
Setting out his desire for the UK to vote to stay in the 28-member bloc, he said: “Europe will be much stronger with Britain as a central and fundamental member.”
He called for businesses to speak out on the issue, highlighting the importance of reforming the EU to “work more effectively in the interests of greater trade, of trade agreements, the opportunity to cut unemployment, to create employment and so on.”
Mr Cameron said: “The UK and Ireland share a strong desire to make the EU more competitive and to prioritise free trade agreements with the fastest-growing markets across the world. We are making progress in our negotiations and I am confident that, with the right political will, we can secure the reforms that will address the concerns of the British people.”
The Prime Minister said there should be a focus on the “positive opportunity for Britain” of changes in the relationship with Brussels as he repeated his position that there was “plenty of time”.
He said: “Imagine the scale of the prize if we can remain a member of the single market, with 500 million consumers, a quarter of the global economy, with a seat at the table and a say over the rules, making sure we do right by our business, for jobs, investment and growth in the UK.
“Combined with action to make sure we deal with the things that frustrate people about the EU.”
The Prime Minister’s comments came after the leader of the campaign for the UK to remain in the EU pushed for a referendum as soon as possible after a deal is reached, following speculation a vote could be held as early as June. Lord Rose, chairman of Britain Stronger In Europe, said his group would be ready for a June vote.