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Cameron charges Osborne with renegotiating UK's EU membership
[LONDON] David Cameron has put his closest political ally, George Osborne, in charge of the project that matters most to his political legacy: renegotiating Britain's European Union membership.
Following his Conservative Party's surprise victory on Friday, Cameron's proposed referendum on leaving the EU is certain to happen. Before that, there will be a renegotiation, aimed at reclaiming powers from Brussels. Cameron's first appointment on Friday was Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He also appointed him First Secretary of State, an honorary title that had been held by William Hague until he retired at the election.
"The first thing is to get the renegotiation going," Cameron told Channel 4 News on Sunday. "We will be doing that soon. I've already made calls to European leaders. Then, the referendum. I'm confident we're going to get the right result." The prime minister has said that for him, "the right result" is Britain remaining in the EU with a new relationship. For a significant number of Tory members of Parliament, the "right result" means Britain's exit from the EU. Getting changes to the membership terms that satisfy as many in the party as possible will be the job of Osborne and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
Cameron has said he wants to restrict welfare payments to EU migrants for four years, and deport them from the country if they haven't found work within six months. His former leadership rival David Davis on Sunday called for Britain to have the right to opt out of any EU legislation it doesn't like.
The prime minister announced several new government posts over the weekend. Michael Gove was moved to justice secretary, Mark Harper replaced him as chief whip in charge of Conservative Party discipline, and Chris Grayling, who had been running the Ministry of Justice, became leader of the House of Commons, responsible for the timetabling of government business in the chamber. Nicky Morgan remained education secretary.
Cameron will finish appointing his cabinet on Monday.