Dutch, British leaders to meet as Cameron prepares EU speech

AMSTERDAM Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:50am EST

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to entrepreneurs at The Media Factory in Preston, northern England January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Martin Rickett/POOL

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to entrepreneurs at The Media Factory in Preston, northern England January 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Martin Rickett/POOL

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will meet British leader David Cameron in the Netherlands on Friday, the day Cameron plans to deliver a policy speech setting out his vision for Britain's membership of the European Union.

They will discuss the European Union budget, Rutte's office said in a statement on Tuesday. It gave no further details.

Cameron's speech in the Netherlands is expected to spell out plans to dilute Britain's membership of the European Union, a move that could reshape Britain's role in the world.

The meeting will take place at a time when the triple-A-rated Netherlands is trying to become more assertive and visible in European affairs.

The new finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is tipped to succeed Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker as chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, leading the euro zone's most powerful economic policymaking body.

Although Cameron and his Dutch-speaking deputy, Nick Clegg, enjoy good personal relations with Rutte, the Conservative leader may not be able to count on Rutte's support if he calls for Britain to establish a more distant relationship with its 26 partners.

Even though Rutte has rejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ideal of European political union outright, he is a staunch European.

When Rutte was asked about Cameron's visit last week, he smiled and replied that Cameron was free to say whatever he wanted. But Rutte added that he would not be sharing the stage with him.

While the Dutch have grown increasingly frustrated by the high cost of bailing out troubled euro zone members, voters soundly rejected the two euro-skeptic parties in the general election last September and Rutte, leader of the Dutch Liberal Party, was re-elected with a stronger mandate.

Rutte and his Labour Party coalition partners have backed more austerity measures to meet European budget targets.

As a trade-dependent economy, the Netherlands has benefited from its membership of the euro zone.

In a pamphlet distributed in the run-up to the election, business groups said the economy would lose 90 billion euros a year in sales without the euro and the EU's internal market.

(Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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