David Cameron holding flurry of meetings with key EU leaders over Brexit demands

The proposed "emergency brake" mechanism being offered by the EU to limit migrant benefits is set to be discussed

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Prime Minister David Cameron (left) and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth / PA Wire/Press Association Images

David Cameron is beginning a flurry of meetings with key players in Brussels to discuss his demands for changes to the European Union, with plans for an "emergency brake" to prevent EU migrants claiming benefits set to be on the agenda.

He has scrapped a scheduled visit to Scandinavia today in order to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and later European Parliament President Martin Schulz in the Belgian capital.

The British prime minister's efforts to win support for his plans ahead of a meeting of EU leaders on 18 February will continue over the coming weeks with European Council president Donald Tusk visiting Downing Street on Sunday and Mr Cameron due to travel to Germany on 12 February.

On Thursday, Mr Cameron said the proposed "emergency brake" mechanism being offered by the EU to limit migrant benefits shows Europe is "taking on board" his concerns.

Sources close to negotiations say it would allow the UK government to ban new EU migrants from claiming benefits for four years - but only if it could prove the welfare system was "under excessive strain".

Mr Cameron's own plan is an outright four-year ban on migrants getting in-work benefits.

Speaking in Aberdeen yesterday, he said: "I'm glad that others in Europe are now taking on board this issue and looking at strong alternatives to the proposal I put forward.

"The problem is clear, people coming to the UK getting instant access to our welfare system, that's the problem I put on the table and I've said my proposal remains on the table until I see something equally potent being brought forward.

"But what's good is that others in Europe are bringing forward ideas to address this problem so we have better control of movement of people into our country.

"I'm pleased that people are bringing forward ideas. It's a complex negotiation..."

Mr Cameron's push for a benefit ban is one of his key demands in renegotiating the UK's relationship with the EU - and a significant sticking point for other European leaders.

Mr Tusk is expected to lay out the reforms for the other 27 EU leaders early next week with the hope that a renegotiation deal can be agreed at the summit meeting on 18 February.

If he accepts the offer then Mr Cameron will have to convince eurosceptic Cabinet members that he has done enough for them to back the campaign to keep Britain in the EU in the run-up to the referendum, which is expected to be held on 23 June.

Campaigners for the leave campaign are likely to view the offer as a fudge that gives Mr Cameron a new deal success to offer to voters - but is ultimately unworkable.

As part of discussions Mr Cameron had discussed an emergency brake but this was on the number of EU migrants coming to Britain - rather than an option tied to the benefits ban.