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First ministers urge change of EU referendum date

The first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have urged the prime minister to delay the date of the EU referendum Credit: Reuters

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish first ministers have written to David Cameron to express concerns about the possibility of a referendum on EU membership in June.

The joint letter points to elections taking place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on 5 May, which it says could confuse issues "at a moment when clarity is required" as the referendum campaign will run in parallel with those elections.

It also warns parties in those countries will struggle to plan for and work together on referendum campaigns given the cross-over.

We believe that the European Referendum is of vital importance to the future of the whole United Kingdom and the debate leading up to it should, therefore, be free of other campaigning distraction.

– Letter signed by Nicola Sturgeon, Arlene Foster, Martin McGuinness and Carwyn Jones

The letter - also signed by deputy first minister of Northern Ireland - calls for the EU referendum to be deferred until later in the year.

Osborne: Reforms will strengthen Britain's position in EU

Chancellor George Osborne Credit: PA

Chancellor George Osborne has said an agreement based on the EU reform proposals would strengthen Britain's position in the union.

During a visit to Rome, he said: "The president of the European Council set out proposals which I think both strengthen the European Union and strengthen Britain's position in the European Union and addresses some of the concerns Britain has had about the European Union, the result of which, I think, if we can get an agreement in the coming weeks, will lead to a stronger, more reformed Europe that Britain can be part of."


Europe 'playing catch-up' with migration crisis

David Miliband has said European leaders were either unable or unwilling to deal with migration before it became a crisis on European shores.

Speaking at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the former Labour Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said Europe was now playing catch-up with the migration crisis.

David Miliband says leaving the EU will not protect the UK from the migration crisis Credit: Jonathan Brady / PA

On the prospect of Brexit, he also warned that leaving the EU would not protect the UK from the migrant crisis, and that the UK could cope with taking more than the 4,000 refugees David Cameron has promised to allow in.

ITV News' correspondent Emma Murphy has been following the speech at Chatham House.

Liam Fox: Up to five Cabinet ministers will vote to leave EU

Liam Fox Credit: PA

Up to five Cabinet ministers will campaign for Britain to leave the European Union and David Cameron should allow them to speak out now, the former defence secretary has said.

Eurosceptic Liam Fox warned David Cameron risked creating a lasting split in the Conservative party if he suppressed opposition to the EU until after any deal was done.

He told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "I think there will be a number of Cabinet ministers with a range of different responsibilities who will want to be in the Leave camp. I don't know exactly how many, but I can think of four or five for certain."

He added: "If the Prime Minister has already decided that the draft deal is enough for him to campaign, to go out there selling the deal, then it should be for others who don't agree with that to make their own case.

"I think the danger of treating the two sides differently is that it will make it more difficult for us to come together after the referendum."

Juncker: Reform proposal fair for Britain and rest of EU

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Credit: RTV

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said the EU reform proposal is fair for both Britain and for the other 27 EU member states.

He told the assembly in Strasburg the proposal must be supported by the European Parliament.

I have always said I want the UK to remain a member of the European Union on the basis of a fair deal.

The settlement that has been proposed is fair for the UK and fair for the other 27 members.

It is also fair for the European Parliament ... the parliament must be fully signed up to the new settlements.

– Jean-Claude Juncker


Mixed response from MEPs on EU reforms

Sophia in 't Veld Credit: PA

The proposals for an emergency brake and a red card would damage the EU's ability to respond to a crisis, a Dutch MEP has said.

Sophia in 't Veld, vice-chairwoman of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Much of what is in this deal is already in the treaties, it is a matter of interpretation.

"Parts of the package will have to be voted by parliament, there will be a regular legislative proposal on the table - we don't know what that will look like so we can't say."

But Belgian MEP Sander Loones, from the New Flemish Alliance, said the emergency brake was needed.

Mr Loones said: "My plea is for, as Mr Cameron says, a strong European network, not a strong European superstate. We want a Europe that is more competitive. That also means that we do need these emergency brakes."

He added: "A lot of common sense is now lacking in this European Union. We are squeezed between federalist Germany, between interventionist France. What we do need is the free market view, the common sense view of the UK. This is what this package brings to the table."

Cameron faces battle to persuade Tories to back EU deal

David Cameron will have to persuade many of his own backbenchers and some members of his Cabinet to support the EU reforms outlined on Tuesday.

Despite campaigning not officially beginning until after the deal is approved, some firmly-held views have already been exchanged.

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:

EU proposals 'a basis for a deal', says Theresa May

Theresa May had been tipped as a possible leader of the "out" campaign. Credit: PA

Home Secretary Theresa May has described the EU proposals unveiled on Tuesday as "a basis for a deal".

Mrs May - who had been tipped as a possible leader of the "out" campaign - said more work needed to be done on the plan set out by European Council president Donald Tusk.

In a statement, Mrs May said: "EU free movement rules have been abused for too long and EU law has stopped us deporting dangerous foreign criminals.

"That is plainly wrong and it is encouraging that the commission has agreed with the UK that we should take action to address these two issues.

"So we have made progress and negotiations continue ahead of the February council. As the Prime Minister has said, more work needs to be done, but this is a basis for a deal."

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